Loving and serving can cause us many inconveniences. Loving can hurt us. Loving can frustrate our aims. Loving can hurt our homes. Loving can traumatize us. To avoid these inconveniences, we have attempted to love by substitute. What do I mean by “to love by substitute?” By this, I mean that we intellectualize our love. We analyze it. We love by looking at other people loving one another, but we do not want to get involved. When we send a gift, we do it from a distance, through a messenger. When you ask your secretary to buy roses for your wife, that is loving by substituting; loving from a distance. That is our self-defense so our love and service will not hurt us.
This was the situation of the lawyer, the priest, and the Levite. They were being inconvenienced by love. The first question they asked was, “Who is my neighbor?” It was an excuse, a shallow one. It was a way of beating around the bush because they wanted to excuse themselves by pleading ignorance.
The lawyer, the priest, and the Levite were all asking the same question. What did they ask themselves when they saw the wounded man? “If I help, what will happen to me?” The priest said, “I will be late for the temple.” The Levite–the Levite is actually a seminarian said, ‘If the priest can leave, why can’t I?” And the lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor and what will happen to me if I help? I will be inconvenienced.” Aren’t those also our questions when we are asked to serve? “What will happen to ME, if I love? What will happen to ME, if I serve?” Those were the questions of the priest, the Levite and the lawyer.
On the other hand, what was the question of the Samaritan? Instead of asking, “Who is my neighbor?” the Samaritan asked, “Am I a neighbor?” Can you see the turning point? And the answer of the Samaritan was, “Yes, I am his neighbor.”
Neighborliness is not a virtue that you look for in other people. It is not something you search for in other people’s hearts. Neighborliness is what people should receive from you. It is a duty. It is not a gift that you receive from other people. While the three asked, “Who is my neighbor?”, the Samaritan asked, “Am I a neighbor?”
The second question that was asked was, “What will happen to me if I help? It is too expensive and too risky for me.” The Samaritan asked a different question, “What will happen to him if I do not help him?” Can you see the difference in focus? Here the focus is not on the self but on the person in need. Do you ever ask questions like that? If you ask yourself, “What will happen to me if I help? I will lose money. I will lose time. I am very busy. I might be hurt again. My emotions will be subjected to trauma again. Therefore I will not serve anymore. I will not love anymore. I will look at the people serving from a distance–a safe distance–so that I will not be involved.”
But you see, the question is, “What will happen if you do not serve?” The world will be uglier. The world will be less peaceful because you will not serve and you will not love. Thus, let us follow the Samaritan’s questions and ask, “Are you a neighbor? What will happen if you do not help?” May our consciences be pricked by these questions.
Lord, may we stop asking questions like “What will happen to me?” May we start to ask questions like, “What will happen to them if I do not help?” May our focus be, not on my need, but on the needs of others because it is only in living for others that I can truly love you. Lord, open my eyes and my heart to the needs of those around me. May I forget my own comforts. May I let go of my own whims. May my whole life be for others.
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