October 3, 2011 - Monday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

Jonah was not afraid to go preach in Nineveh because he was afraid of any danger to his own life. He is a man of great faith. He was willingly thrown into the ocean during a storm. He would have gladly gone into Nineveh if it were a question of danger. He was afraid of God’s mercy. He knew that God would be merciful and not really destroy the city of Nineveh. He was afraid of God’s mercy toward the Assyrians. If he could have been assured that God would be implacable, he would have gladly gone and watched the city burn. The historical records we have show that Nineveh was a cruel, horrible city. Jonah did not want to go warn them about God’s coming wrath; he wanted to see them destroyed. Jonah was a man of great faith but little mercy.

Meanwhile, in our Gospel reading today, we are confronted by extraordinary mercy. Because of this story, the word “Samaritan” has come to mean a good and generous person. Many people today do not even know that Samaritan is just a nationality. The Samaritans had been fighting with the Jews for centuries. Both sides had done some remarkably cruel and despicable things to the other. For the Jews listening to Jesus, the idea of a “good Samaritan” was as unlikely as the idea of a good Palestinian would be to the Israelites today. The expectation is that when the Samaritan man saw a Jew beaten by the side of the road, if he had walked over at all, it would have been to kick him an extra time or two. Instead, he shows remarkable mercy.

To have mercy for an enemy, to see your enemy beaten and help them, to warn your enemy to repent rather than be destroyed, requires seeing your enemy as a fellow human person. So long as they remain just “one of them”, we forget that, more basically, they are “one of us”. These people are our neighbors; they are our brothers and sisters since we are all descended from Adam and Eve. We may have to fight a war to defend something, but we do not fight against alien monsters. We fight against people, like ourselves, who we would gladly see convert and be saved. We fight against people, like ourselves, who we would care for in their hour of need.