This week Pope Francis made his first trip outside of Rome to an Italian island called Lampedusa. This is an Island in the south mediteranean a place where many refugees from Africa and the middle east try to enter Europe. Recently an overcrowded boat of refugees sunk just off the coast. This is a regular occurance. Pope Francis remarked that when this boat sank did anybody cry? Did anybody notice or care? He spoke on how easy it is for us to deflect responsibility for these events.
“Today too, the question has to be asked: Who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters of ours? Nobody! That is our answer: It isn’t me; I don’t have anything to do with it; it must be someone else, but certainly not me. …; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: “poor soul…!”, and then go on our way. “
Who is responsible? This is the question the scribe asks Jesus in our Gospel “Who is my neighbour?” Who do I HAVE to love? He wants to know who he is responsible for and thereby who he is NOT responsible for.
And this is actually what the Levite and priest do in Jesus parable. They walk on the “other side” of the road – Jewish tradition stated that if someone was on the other side of the road they were not your neighbor, you were not responsible. The Levite and priest also had responsibilities in the temple and contact with a corpse – the man looked dead – would have made them unclean and unable to worship. They could say if I touch this man I will actually fail in my duty in my responsibility because I won’t be able to complete my job in the temple.
The Samaritan however, was in no way responsible, in no way expected to help this man. The Jews would not have considered Samaritans their “neighbour.” They were foreigners. He was under no obligation to help this man, but he did so anyway with significant personal cost to himself.
This is how God treats us. God did not have to create us. He had no obligation to send his son to die for us or His holy Spirit to live in our souls. He was not responsible for sin – yet he was the one who fixed it. He did not have to share his beautiful mother with us. He does not have to forgive us one time, but he does so hundreds of times. God owes us nothing – yet he gives everything.
Who is responsible? The Samaritan was not responsible for the crime that afflicted this man. He had no duty or obligation to help him and yet he did. Jesus Christ had no duty to die for us, no duty to save us, and yet he did. You and I are not responsible for most of the evil or tragedies in the world. Often we are not obliged to anything, but we are able to do many things. God has loved us freely – we ought to love others freely.