I’ve been thinking all weekend about Sunday’s Gospel reading. It is one of my favorite parables and I used to love when it would come up in class when I was teaching. But as I reflect on the events of the last year or so, the parable has taken on new meaning for me as I wonder how that scenario would play out in today’s world.
Someone would probably have video taped the attack on the man as he traveled down the dangerous road and then they would have posted it online. Every talk show would be checking in with experts to discuss why the priest and the Levite did not stop to help the man in the ditch and how much culpability they shared in the man’s plight. The Samaritan would be hailed as a hero and his story would be made into a movie.
But others would ask: “Why couldn’t the man just get up on his own?” “Why do the priest and Levite get a pass?” “Why does the Samaritan get honored for doing what he ought to do?”
They would ask those question because they have never been in a ditch.
The reality is the man couldn’t get up. I imagine it might have been because of the beating he experienced at the hands of the robbers. But most people know it isn’t always a physical reason that lands you in a ditch. Once in a great while you experience something so powerful and painful that you simply cannot help yourself. Call it depression. Call it addiction. Call it a crisis. Call it whatever you want. It’s an abyss, a darkness, and it can envelop you.
How we respond to those in the ditch says an awful lot about where we are in our own journey. It says a lot about who we are as children of God.
The truth is we are always on a journey. We are, by our nature, unfinished. By the grace of God, we are always longing for more. We must be patient. With ourselves. With each other. We must, in the words of Teilhard de Chardin, “trust in the slow work of God.”
But being unfinished is not an excuse to ignore the need around us. Longing for more does not give us permission to pass by on the other side of the road.
Who around you sits in darkness this week? Who around needs a hand? Who among you lies helpless in a ditch?
And what do you plan to do about it?