A new family moved into our neighborhood recently and I wanted to stop by with a small welcome gift to say hello and introduce myself and the friars. When I finally got the time to put the package together and walk over to the house, it was about 8:30pm – admittedly late even though there was still light in the sky. As I rang the bell, there were lights on in the house and within moments the new owner came down the stairs in her pajamas with her 4-year-old child in her arms. She opened the door and started yelling at me for coming at the time she was trying to get her daughter to bed, thinking me some sort of salesperson. I apologized profusely and sat the package down, trying to introduce myself and walk away all at the same time. As she realized what I was trying to do, her tone changed immediately, and she thanked me. Two days later she walked up with her daughter to our friary with a thank you card and some baked brownies to say thanks and apologize to me. We laughed at the irony of our first encounter – it is sometimes hard to know who your neighbor is!
Our world struggles in much the same way. First impressions as well as our current state of mind dictate how we react to the people we encounter every day. Do we see the people around us as a threat, as a foreigner, as an imposition, as a hindrance to my getting where I need to go – and those are just the people I see in the grocery store! When we look at those even farther away, we vote for leaders who will make sure that regardless of how “they” are seen, our needs will be seen first. And when we look even closer – under our own roof – we can see our significant others as they either bring joy or something less to our lives. The question of course is: Why is everyone always seen in relationship to me, rather than for who they are as a person, created, loved and valued by God?
This Sunday’s Gospel story of the Good Samaritan shows us what can happen when we see beyond the labels of our own creation. To see others as God sees them and try to address their need first, is the hallmark of the follower of Christ in this Gospel passage. But even for those of us who say yes to this, and are open to seeing those around us as brothers and sisters, the temptation is still to put off doing anything in particular right now. We have a ton or really good reasons to not take action. But the Spirit of God within calls us to reach out now to those around us and find ways to expand the definition of neighbor. Timing is everything! While my timing was off with my new neighbor, the Good Samaritan’s timing was perfect – in fact lifesaving. May we find ways TODAY to expand our view of the people around us and around the world, and act accordingly.
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