This morning I rose and read the “sermon of the day” before I went to church, and sure enough, another highfalutin sermon on the Good Samaritan.

For those who are not Christian, this is one of Jesus’ stories about a man beaten by robbers who was helped by a passerby who belonged to a rival ethnic group. Jesus was pointing out that ethnic cleansing and ethnic hatred is a no-no: we are all brothers under God.

This story is not one of my favorite, because nowadays the story is usually watered down to bash ordinary people for their racism.

Never mind that those in the church are rarely racists. It is mainly a way for the one giving the sermon, who supports all the “correct” causes” to feel superior to the bozos stuck listening to the sermon, and to imply they are sinners because they don’t spend all their spare time working for the “poor”. Indeed, some in the pews might actually might be (shudder shudder) those who cling to guns and religion and who don’t support a nanny state.

Don’t believe me? Well, just look at the PC nuns leadership conference group versus the Catholic bishops feud. The nuns in that group claim the moral high ground because, in between learning how to “Lead in the evolutionary Now“, they are lobbying for taxpayer money to be used to support a large unwieldy federal bureaucracy to dole out pittances to the poor, when the bishops are only asking them to do old fashioned things like getting their hands dirty by teaching children, or actually being a nurse in a Catholic hospital, and by the way, maybe actually pretend you are a Catholic.

The press is invariably on the side of the nuns and the PC commentators: who needs repentance and personal action when all you need to do is support the politically correct causes to be considered a “good Samaritan” and go to heaven?

Excuse me, but I am always a bit suspicious about those who preach sweetness and light in generalities, but don’t seem to know what it actually means in practice.

So when I read the wonderful essay on the Good Samaritan this morning, my crankiness came out.

Can we conceive of a reality where those whom we presently view as enemies are now our neighbors?

Yes, forgive our (generic faceless) enemy. No Problemo, dude.

Uh, what if the enemy IS our neighbor…or in our own family.

It’s easy to “forgive”  a generic enemy, but  a bit harder if the “enemy” is closer to home, maybe even in our own family.

We docs see people all the time who suffer because of what someone in their family has done to them, and yes, they need to learn to forgive and let the bitterness go. But that is a hard struggle, one of the hardest thing a person can do.

In understanding the details of this parable, it’s my hope that the reality of God’s Kingdom comes into an even more dynamic focus. Can we conceive of a reality where those whom we presently view as enemies are now our neighbors?

Presumably by “dynamic focus” he didn’t mean when our niece Chona shook her fist in the face of our murderous Mayor right in front of the bishop a couple years ago. It’s nice to preach forgiveness,  but some of us want a reality where those who harm us need to be brought to justice, if not for our sake, for the sake of those they might harm in the future.

This is the reason that so many reject the church: we are asking for bread, and you give us a stone.

For me, the real lesson of the good Samaritan is seen all around us, because caring for the “least of our brethren” is often closer to home.

We docs see this all the time: In the mother who cares for her handicapped or maybe merely hyperactive child, the spouse who does not give into temptations to commit adultery, the mother who accepts her “unplanned” pregnancy as a gift from god, and those many nameless folks who care for family members who are sick, who work one day a week at the food shelter, who bring a casserole to a sick neighbor, or even the neighbor who pops in every day to check on the elderly person down the street.

US Statistics:

2009, more than 61.6 million people provided unpaid care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend at an estimated value of $450 billion.[20]

1.4 million children ages 8 to 18 provide care for an adult relative; 72% are caring for a parent or grandparent, although most are not the sole caregiver.[21]

30% of family caregivers caring for older individuals are themselves aged 65 or over; another 15% are between the ages of 45 to 54.[22]

2009, more than 61.6 million people provided unpaid care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend at an estimated value of $450 billion.[20]

1.4 million children ages 8 to 18 provide care for an adult relative; 72% are caring for a parent or grandparent, although most are not the sole caregiver.[21]

30% of family caregivers caring for older individuals are themselves aged 65 or over; another 15% are between the ages of 45 to 54.[22]

So there you have it: 61 million Good Samaritans in the USA (and probably a similar percentage here in the Philippines), and some of them are probably listening to your sermon. Did you even notice they were there?

When Jesus said what you do to the least of my brethren you do for me, he knew that good people of every religion do that every day, and he was praising them.

Take it from an expert: it’s a lot harder to make small sacrifices every day to care for one’s family than to “sacrifice” everything to be a missionary in Africa.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines.
*In our case, it was the mayor who ordered a hit job on a rival, and our nephew was killed as a bystander: but what about those whose children were killed by gang members, or those who see the boy who wrecked the car and lived while their daughter died in the accident? I could go on and on….

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