July 19, 2019


‘Who is my neighbor?’ Pope reminds us ‘compassion is the benchmark’ of Christianity

​“And who is my neighbor?” (Lk 10:29)

That phrase from the Gospel (Lk 10:25-37) shared during the liturgy on the weekend of July 13-14 is one we should all be familiar with.

Spoken in the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus’ response to the question put forth by the scholar of the law delivers a story of compassion that some in today’s world seem to have forgotten.

And it’s a story worth revisiting time and time again when we struggle with recognizing the face of Christ in each and everyone around us.

In his main Angelus talk in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on July 14, commenting on the Sunday Gospel reading of the good Samaritan, Pope Francis said it teaches that “compassion is the benchmark” of Christianity. And we must remember that our lives of faith require us to reach for that standard in even the most uncomfortable situations.

If we visit cities and towns around central and southern Indiana and cities and town scattered across the U.S., we see pockets of poverty and an ever‑present homeless population—many victims of circumstances beyond their control who need our support and prayers.

The statistics concerning homelessness in our country are alarming. A total of 552,830 people experienced homelessness on a single night in 2018. This number represents 17 out of every 10,000 people in the United States, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, endhomelessness.org.

In Indiana, 5,258 people experience homelessness every night. There are eight homeless people per 10,000 people in the state’s general population, and they come from all walks of life: families, veterans, unaccompanied young adults and individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.

If you walk in downtown Indianapolis on any given day or night, you’ll see them under bridges and overpasses. The scenario is sadly played out in towns and cities in central and southern Indiana and across America. Do we see the face of Christ in the least of our brothers and sisters? Are we the face of Christ to these brothers and sisters? We ask: Who is my neighbor?

During the Angelus, Pope Francis also prayed that Catholics would understand and act on “the inseparable bond” between love of God and love of neighbor.

Those neighbors include people who may make us initially feel uncomfortable because they look different or speak a different language: refugees here from war-torn countries or immigrants looking for a better life. Again, we ask: Who is my neighbor?

Our faith teaches us that our neighbors exist outside our comfort zones. And when we go beyond those boundaries, our witness as missionary disciples must still be at the front and center of all we say and do.

“Being able to have compassion; this is the key,” the pope said. “If you stand before a person in need and don’t feel compassion, if your heart is not moved, that means something is wrong. Be attentive.

“If you are walking down the street and see a homeless person lying there and you pass without looking at him or you think, ‘That’s the wine. He’s a drunk,’ ask yourself if your heart has not become rigid, if your heart has not become ice,” the pope continued.

Jesus’ command to be like the good Samaritan, the Holy Father added, “indicates that mercy toward a human being in need is the true face of love. And that is how you become true disciples of Jesus and show others the Father’s face.”

A “true face of love.” How many of us have shown that compassion when we encounter the least among us?

Who is my neighbor? It is the hungry, the homeless, the refugee, the immigrant and anyone who crosses our path.

Like the good Samaritan in the Gospel passage who was “moved with compassion” (Lk 10:33) to help his fellow man, Jesus implores us to follow through on our mission of mercy as his disciples: “Go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37).

—Mike Krokos

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