by Bill McCarthy
Our Good Samaritan Society, a recognition society that honors those donors whose bequests or planned gifts will help support Catholic Charities in the years to come, holds an Annual Prayer Service and Luncheon for society members. The Service provided an opportunity to reflect on the New Testament parable of “the Good Samaritan” (Luke 10: 25-37), a parable that resonates in the stories of many religious traditions. The Good Samaritan story is, to me, one of the best illustrations of our core value at Catholic Charities – to love. In order to say yes to our call to love our sisters and brothers in need, our eyes, and our hearts, have to be open.
During the prayer service, Catholic Charities’ Planned Giving Officer, Derek Coelho, shared a reflection on the Good Samaritan story, and I wanted to share some of his reflection with you. Derek told a personal story of how his eyes were opened to those in need in his native India.In Derek’s words:
In Derek’s words:
The story of the Good Samaritan is a tale about choices. We can look away or cross over to the other side of the street when we don’t want to get involved. Or we can take the time to stop and SEE if we can help someone in need. However, when we stop and look, we run the risk of getting involved.
Henri Nouwen, the spiritual writer, said that personal trials and calamities are gifts that can break us or break our hearts open and teach us about vulnerability and compassion. Those who endure misfortune can develop a capacity to comprehend the pain of others. The priest and the Levite, the two men who walked by the injured man in the Good Samaritan story, saw the same wounded man. But, perhaps, because his community had put up with insults, this Samaritan was open, vulnerable and compassionate. Empathy makes us aware of other people’s suffering, but it takes more than empathy to take action. The Samaritan saw in the wounded man a brother in need and treated him the way he would have liked to be treated if he was in that man’s place.
We see so much on the streets and on our newscasts every day. It’s very easy to shut down and become anesthetized to the suffering of others.
Many classmates in my parochial school in Bombay were very poor. Some lived in shacks with thatched roofs with no water or indoor plumbing. The biggest slum in South Asia was a mile away from my home. I was surrounded by poverty but I never saw it. I took a trip back to India after living in the US for five years and suddenly became aware for the first time of raw poverty all around me. There was no escape. The poor were everywhere. As I reflected on what I was “seeing” for the first time, I realized that I had never gone to bed hungry in a country where children often go to work at age 7 or 8 to help feed their families. I knew I had done nothing to merit my blessings. I just hit the jackpot because of the family I was born into. That insight was a moment of grace and conversion. I understood my responsibility.
It’s not enough to throw our hands up when we see people suffering and ask God how God can tolerate the suffering in the world. God’s word to us is that we were all created to participate with God in “renewing the face of the earth.”
At Catholic Charities, we are called to see and cherish the Divine within each person who enters our doors. Thank you very much for the way you see, love and reach out to others with compassion.