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VII. The Good Samaritan

28 28. To the gospel of suffering there also belongs -- and in an organic way -- the parable of the Good Samaritan. Through this parable Christ wished to give an answer to the question: "Who is my neighbor?" (90) . For of the three travelers along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, on which there lay half dead a man who had been stripped and beaten by robbers, it was precisely the Samaritan who showed himself to be the real "neighbor" of the victim: "Neighbor" means also the person who carried out the commandment of love of neighbor. Two other men were passing along the same road; one was a priest and the other a Levite, but each of them "saw him and passed by on the other side." The Samaritan, on the other hand, "saw him and had compassion on him. He went to him ... and bound up his wounds," then "brought him to an inn, and took care of him" (91) . And when he left, he solicitously entrusted the suffering man to the care of the innkeeper, promising to meet any expenses.

The parable of the Good Samaritan belongs to the gospel of suffering. For it indicates what the relationship of each of us must be toward our suffering neighbor. We are not allowed to "pass by on the other side" indifferently; we must "stop" beside him. Everyone who stops beside the suffering of another person, whatever form it may take, is a good Samaritan. This stopping does not mean curiosity, but availability. It is like the opening of a certain interior disposition of the heart, which also has an emotional expression of its own. The name "good Samaritan" fits every individual who is sensitive to the sufferings of others, who "is moved" by the misfortune of another. If Christ, who know the interior of man, emphasizes this compassion, this means that it is important for our whole attitude to others' suffering. Therefore one must cultivate this sensitivity of heart, which bears witness to compassion toward a suffering person. Sometimes this compassion remains the only or principal expression of our love for and solidarity with the sufferer.

Nevertheless, the good Samaritan of Christ's parable does not stop at sympathy and compassion alone. They become form for him and incentive to actions aimed at bringing help to the injured man. In a word then, a good Samaritan is one who brings help in suffering, a whatever its nature may be. Help which is, as far as possible, effective. He puts his whole heart into it, nor does he spare material means. We can say that he gives himself, his very "I," opening this "I" to the other person. Here we touch upon one of the key points of all Christian anthropology. Man cannot "fully find himself except though a sincere gift of himself" (92) . A good Samaritan is the person capable of exactly such a gift of self.

Lc 10,29.
91. Lc 10,33-34.
92. GS 24.

29 29. Following the parable of the Gospel, we could say that suffering, which is present under so many different forms in our human world, is also present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one's "I" on behalf of other people, especially those who suffer. The world of human suffering unceasingly calls for, so to speak, another world: the world of human love; and in a certain sense man owes to suffering that unselfish love which stirs in his heart and actions. The person who is a "neighbor" can not indifferently pass by the suffering of another: this is the name of fundamental human solidarity, still more in the name of love of neighbor. He must "stop," "sympathize," just like the Samaritan of the gospel parable. The parable in itself expresses a deeply Christian truth, but one that at the same time is very universally human. It is not without reason that also in ordinary speech any activity on behalf of the suffering and needy is called "good Samaritan" work.

In the course of the centuries this activity assumes organized institutional forms and constitutes a field of work in the respective professions. How much there is of "the good Samaritan" in the profession of the doctor, or the nurse or others similar! Considering its "evangelical" content, we are inclined to think here of a vocation rather than simply a profession. And the institutions which from generation to generation have performed "good Samaritan" service have developed and specialized even further in our times. This undoubtedly proves that people today pay ever greater and closer attention to the sufferings of their neighbor, seek to understand those sufferings and deal with them with ever greater skill. They also have an ever greater capacity and specialization in this area. In view of all this we can say that the parable of the Samaritan of the Gospel has become one of the essential elements of moral culture and universally human civilization. And thinking of all those who by their knowledge and ability provide many kinds of service to their suffering neighbor, we cannot but offer them words of thanks and gratitude.

These words are directed to all those who exercise their own service to their suffering neighbor in an unselfish way, freely undertaking to provide "good Samaritan" help and devoting to this cause all the time and energy at their disposal outside their professional work. This kind of voluntary "good Samaritan" or charitable activity can be called social work; it can also be called an apostolate when it is undertaken for clearly evangelical motives, especially if this is in connection with the church or another Christian communion. Voluntary
«good Samaritan" work is carried out in appropriate milieu or through organizations created for this purpose. Working in this way has a great importance, especially if it involves undertaking larger tasks which require cooperation and the use of technical means. No less valuable is individual activity, especially by people who are better prepared for it in regard to the various kinds of human suffering which can only be alleviated in an individual or personal way. Finally, family help means both acts of love of neighbor done to members of the same family and mutual help between families.

It is difficult to list here all the types and different circumstance of "good Samaritan" work which exit in the church and society. It must be recognized that they are very numerous, and one must express satisfaction at the fact that, thanks to them, the fundamental moral values such as the value of human solidarity, the value of Christian love of neighbor, form the framework of social life and interhuman relationships and combat on this front the various forms of hatred, violence, cruelty, contempt for others or simple
«insensitivity," in other words, indifference toward one's neighbor and his sufferings.

Here we come to the enormous importance of having the right attitudes in education. The family, the school and other education institutions must, if only for humanitarian reasons, work perseveringly for the reawakening and refining of that sensitivity toward one's neighbor and his suffering of which the figure of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel has become a symbol. Obviously the church must do the same. She must even more profoundly make her own -- as far as possible -- the motivations which Christ placed in his parable and in the whole Gospel. The eloquence of the parable of the Good Samaritan and of the whole Gospel is especially this: Every individual must feel as it called personally to bear witness to love in suffering. The institutions are very important and indispensable; nevertheless, no institution can by itself replace the human heart, human compassion, human love or human initiative, when it is a question of dealing with the sufferings of another. This refers to physical sufferings, but it is even more true when it is a question of the many kinds of moral suffering and when it is primarily the soul that is suffering.

30 30. The parable of the Good Samaritan, which -- as we have said -- belongs to the gospel of suffering, goes hand in hand with this gospel through the history of the church and Christianity, through the history of man and humanity. This parable witnesses to the fact that Christ's revelation of the salvific meaning of suffering is in no way identified with an attitude of passivity. Completely the reverse is true. The Gospel is the negation of passivity in the face of suffering. Christ himself is especially active in this field. In this way he accomplishes the messianic program of his mission, according to the words of the prophet:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (93) .

In a superabundant way Christ carries out this messianic program of his mission: He goes about "doing good" (94) , and the good of his works became especially evident in the face of human suffering. The parable of the Good Samaritan is in profound harmony with the conduct of Christ himself.

Finally, this parable, through its essential content, will enter into those disturbing words of the Final Judgement, noted by Matthew in his Gospel: "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was in prison and you came to me" (95). To the just, who ask when they did all this to him, the Son of Man will respond: "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (96) . The opposite sentence will be imposed on those who have behaved differently: "As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me" (97).

One could certainly extend the list of the forms of suffering that have encountered human sensitivity, compassion and help or that have failed to do so. The first and second parts of Christ's words about the Final Judgement unambiguously show how essential it is for the eternal life of the individual to "stop," as the Good Samaritan did, at that suffering and to give some help. In the messianic program of Christ, which is at the same time the program of the kingdom of God, suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to giver birth to works of love toward neighbor, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a "civilization of love." In this love the salvific meaning of suffering is completely accomplished and reaches its definitive dimension. Christ's words about the Final Judgement enable us to understand this in all the simplicity and clarity of the Gospel.

These words about love, about actions of love, acts linked with human suffering, enable us once more to discover at the basis of all human sufferings the same redemptive suffering of Christ. Christ said: "You did it to me." He himself is the one who in each individual experiences love; he himself is the one who receives help when this is given to every suffering person without exception. He himself is present in this suffering person, since his salvific suffering has been opened once and for all for all to every human suffering. And all those who suffer have been called once and for all to become sharers "in Christ's sufferings" (98) , just as all have been called to "complete" with their own suffering "what is lacking in Christ's afflictions" (99) . At one and the same time Christ has taught man to do good by his suffering and to do good to those who suffer. In this double respect he has completely revealed the meaning of suffering.

Lc 4,18-19; cf. Is 61,1-2.
94. Ac 10,38.
95. Mt 25,34-36.
96. Mt 25,40.
97. Mt 25,45.
98. 1P 4,13.
99. Col 1,24.

VIII. Conclusion

31 31. This is the meaning of suffering, which is truly supernatural and at the same time human. It is supernatural because it is rooted in the divine mystery of the redemption of the world, and it is likewise deeply human because in it the person discovers himself, his own humanity, his own dignity, his own mission.

Suffering is certainly part of the mystery of man. Perhaps suffering is not wrapped up as much as man in this mystery, which is an especially impenetrable one. The Second Vatican Council expressed this truth that "only in the mystery of the incarnate word does the mystery of man take on light. In fact ... Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear" (100) . If these words refer to everything that concerns the mystery of man, then they certainly rever in a very special way to human suffering. Precisely at this point the "revealing of man to himself and making his supreme vocation clear" is particularly indispensable. It also happens -- as experience proves -- that this can be particularly dramatic. But when it is completely accomplished and becomes the light of human life, it is particularly blessed. "Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful" (101) .

I now end the present considerations on suffering in the year in which the church is living the extraordinary jubilee linked to the anniversary of the redemption.

The mystery of the redemption of the world is in an amazing way rooted in suffering, and this suffering in turn finds in the mystery of the redemption its supreme and surest point of reference.

We wish to live this year of the redemption in special union with all those who suffer. And so there should come together in spirit beneath the cross on Calvary all suffering people who believe in Christ and particularly those who suffer because of their faith in him who is the crucified and risen one, so that the offering of their sufferings may hasten the fulfillment of the prayer of the Savior himself that all may be one (102) . Let there also gather beneath the cross all people of good will, for on this cross is the "Redeemer or man," the Man of Sorrows, who has taken upon himself the physical and moral sufferings of the people of all times, so that in love they may find the salvific meaning of their sorrow and valid answers to all of their questions.

Together with Mary, mother of Christ, who stood beneath the cross (103) , we pause beside all the crosses of contemporary man.

We invoke all the saints, who down through the centuries in a special way shared in the suffering of Christ. We ask them to support us.

And we ask all you who suffer to support us. We ask precisely you who are weak to become a source of strength for the church and humanity. In the terrible battle between the forces of good and evil revealed to our eyes by our modern world, may your suffering in union with the cross of Christ be victorious!

To all of you, dearest brothers and sisters, I send my apostolic blessing.

Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, on the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11, 1984, in the sixth year of my pontificate.

John Paul II

GS 22.
101. Ibid.
102. Cf. Jn 17,11.
103. Cf. Jn 19,25.

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