Seeing with our hearts

One of today's readings is the familar story of the Good Samaritan. Why was it that the priest and the Levite, who really should have been in tune with the injured traveler's suffering, didn't get involved? Were their religious duties too important? With their education and status, were they simply too self-important? Was it someone else's job? Were they simply scared? It's a bad neighborhood, perhaps the robbers were lying in wait for the next fool who stopped to tend to the injured victim?

What makes the Samaritan different? "He was moved with compassion." In other words he didn't see the tragic scene with his eyes or his brain. He didn't analyze the danger, or weigh the importance of his errand with the threat to this poor traveler's health and safety. He saw with his heart. He was moved by the plight of the injured victim, and he knew what he would want someone to do if it was him laying there.

And once he had seen with his heart, he didn't file the feeling away. He acted on them. He took responsibility, from bandaging the man's wounds to arranging for his care while he went on and took care of his business. Either the priest or the Levite could have done the same thing, tended to the man and seen that he was taken care of before resuming their work. But they didn't, because they lost touch with their compassion.

Jesus' summary makes it clear that it is not the person who knows about or thinks about the kingdom of God that we should emulate, it is the one who simply responds as a human being and, in the process, gives hands and voice to making the kingdom of God real in our midst.

I can think of times in my church life when I've passed by important opportunities to open the kingdom. It is easy to be deluded by the seeming importance of religious duties and just imply fail to see things as a person. I've certainly missed times to pray with, to help and to simply be present with people in the name of church -- and I am realizing how upside down that is. My prayer is to see those opportunities with my heart and simply respond, as Jesus would (and did).

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