(Homily – adapted – from Pope Francis – delivered in April 2016 – and reflection on Veronica – the 6th Station of the Cross – indicated by italics)
We know the parable of the Good Samaritan is a lesson to teach us that we must love our neighbor, and that there’s no one in the category of non-neighbor, but beyond that, have we also learned the parable’s lesson that God treats us with the compassion of the Samaritan?
In the gestures and the actions of the Good Samaritan we recognize God’s merciful action in the whole history of salvation. It is the same compassion with which the Lord comes to meet each one of us: He does not ignore us, He knows our sorrows; He knows how much we need help and consolation. He comes close to us and never abandons us. Each one of us should ask himself the question and answer in his heart: “Do I believe this? Do I believe that the Lord has compassion for me, just as I am, a sinner, with so many problems and so many things?’ Think of this and the answer is: ‘Yes!’ But each one must look into his heart to see if he has faith in this compassion of God, of the good God who comes close, who heals us, who caresses us. And if we refuse Him, He waits: He is patient and is always at our side.”
It is not automatic that one who frequents God’s house and knows His mercy is able to love his neighbor. It is not automatic! One can know the whole Bible, one can know all the liturgical rubrics, one can know all the theology, but from knowing, loving is not automatic: loving has another way, intelligence is needed but also something more … “The priest and the Levite saw, but ignored; looked but did not provide. Yet true worship does not exist if it is not translated into service to one’s neighbor.”
Compassion is the center of the parable, centering on this word that means ‘to share with’. The Samaritan had compassion that is, his heart, was moved; he was moved within! See the difference. The other two ‘saw,’ but their hearts remained closed, cold. Instead, the Samaritan’s heart was attuned to God’s heart itself. In fact, “‘compassion’ is an essential characteristic of God’s mercy. God shares with us – He suffers with us; He feels our sufferings.”
(Francis reminds us the Samaritan’s concrete, personal actions teach us that compassion is not a vague feeling – it means to take care of the other even to paying in person.) It means to commit oneself, taking all the necessary steps to ‘come close’ to the other, to the point of identifying oneself with him: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The story of Veronica that we recall in the 6th Station of the Cross points to the power of witness in an act of compassion. What does Veronica do? Not much – she steps from the crowd, wipes a man’s face. What does Veronica mean to our spirit? Close to everything.
The image on the veil stands forever as reminder of the unmitigated horror of which injustice is capable. The image of the veil stands forever as a mute witness to the crime of all times – and the destruction of goodness at the center of us, in us, around us forever.
As Pope Francis says: “The parable of the Good Samaritan is a gift to all of us, and also a commitment. Jesus repeats to each one of us what He said to the Doctor of the Law: ‘Go and do likewise’. … Jesus bent over us, made Himself our servant, and thus He saved us, so that we too are able to love as He loved us.”
Veronica’s act of compassion puts us to shame. Her unblinking action puts us all, and each, on notice: for the sake of what life lesson would you step out from the crowd and draw attention to yourselves? To what kind of care would you bend your life so that the world will never forget?
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress