December 11, 2020

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Good Samaritan’s response demonstrates how to love our neighbor

David Bethuram

One of the most familiar and well-loved stories in the Bible is that of the good Samaritan. However, we must ask ourselves whether we leave it in the past, thinking of it as merely a good story, or look at it from a modern-day perspective. We certainly live in days when the spirit of the good Samaritan is needed, and the place it should be displayed is in our lives.

The Church’s vision and that of Catholic Charities awaken in us the parable of the good Samaritan as it is lived out in our world today. In this passage, Jesus is instructing the lawyer as to who is neighbor to the victim. “Jesus replied, ‘A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half dead’ ” (Lk 10:30).

“But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back’ (Lk 10:33-35).

“Jesus then asked the lawyer, ‘Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?’ He answered, ‘The one who treated him with mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise’ ” (Lk 10:35-37).

Our country has no shortage of needy people, but are we as God’s people willing to help? Our Christianity should be on display in our daily lives. Therefore, we must ask ourselves if we are merciful and compassionate to those in need.

Let’s examine the following characteristics of the good Samaritan and ask if these qualities are true of us.

He saw the need. Although all three men physically saw the critically wounded man, only the Samaritan looked and stopped to help. Before we can meet needs, we must be aware of them.

He responded with his heart. The Samaritan saw the helplessness and suffering of the dying man, and his heart went out to him.

He opened his hands. The Samaritan didn’t just feel sorry for this poor man, he relieved his suffering by pouring oil and wine on his wounds and bandaging them. He didn’t leave him behind, but lifted him onto his donkey, brought him to the nearest inn, and took care of him.

He shared his treasure. Since the Samaritan was on a journey, he needed to continue traveling even though the injured man needed time to recover. Instead of simply dropping him off and leaving, the Samaritan paid the innkeeper to look after him. Then he promised to return and repay the innkeeper for whatever more he had to spend for this man’s care.

He offered his time. The Samaritan was willing to have his trip interrupted to offer aid to a man in need of help. He put his journey on hold for a while to do that which was more important—show compassion and care to someone in need.

Today we don’t lack opportunities to be good Samaritans, but we must first see the needs, feel compassion and be willing to be inconvenienced in order to give of our time and resources to help. As we allow the love of Jesus to flow through our hearts, we will understand more and more what it means to love our neighbor.

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at

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