Tag Archives: Good Samaritan

The Good Central American Samaritan

A sermon for the north for the fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Luke 10; 25-37

More than fifteen years ago, St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames was planning to expand its offices and worship space. In the gathering space there was an empty two story wall. The committee decided to seek a local artist who was a parishioner to create a “Story Wall” – combing images of scripture and sacraments with the life of the parish.

Jo Myers-Walker took up the project, using clay images that were mounted on the wall. She sought input from many people and involved many parishioners in the project, some of whom make the clay that she fashioned into images.

One day I stopped by her studio and we talked about one image – the Good Samaritan.

Jo was going to portray me as the good Samaritan, knowing of my work with the poor and especially with the poor of El Salvador. No, I said. The Good Samaritan is the Central American.


All too often we fail to realize that the Good Samaritan was the outsider, the impure outsider. The pure priest and levite pass by – perhaps to preserve their ritual purity. But the Samaritan saw the man who fell among the robbers. He stopped and, moved with compassion, touched his wounds, and took him to a place of rest.

The Samaritans were looked down on by the Jewish leaders. They followed the Torah but didn’t worship in Jerusalem and had other customs. So, when Jesus made the Samaritan the example of what loving one’s neighbor means, he was shaking up the world of his followers.

The outsider heals the wounded – even if the wounded is the insider.

In my experience, the outcasts, the foreigners, the immigrants, have healed me and continue to help making me whole and holy. They make me realize that I need them. I cannot live and flourish without them, without their help that saves and cures me.

That is very clear for me here in Honduras. The poor almost always offer you something to eat. They have helped me repair my car when it’s broken down. They have even opened me to new understanding of scripture.

There are rumors that this weekend ICE will be making massive raids on immigrants, largely Central Americans, preparing to deport them.

And Catholics will be hearing the Gospel of the Good Samaritan at Mass. Will you make the connection?

I will not deliver this homily anywhere, but I wanted to share my reflections with the wider world.

A no brainer

Yesterday I gave a ride in my truck to a woman who had been hacked with a machete by her husband. People in the village I was ran up to the truck and asked me to take her to the closest hospital 90 minutes away.

Of course, I said.

It was a no-brainer.

I didn’t have to reflect much, partly because three young women came with her. Also, I was taking several pastoral workers back to their villages after a parish zone meeting.

I had a community that let me say yes.

In today’s first reading, Moses tells the people (Deuteronomy 30: 11- 14):

This Instruction that I enjoin on you today is not too baffling for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in the sky… ,  Nor is it across the sea… No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouth and in your heart…

As Gustavo Gutiérrez writes in Sharing the Word through the Liturgical Year (p. 184), “God does not require anything superhuman. In the final analysis, God only asks something very human, namely…to love.”

Magda Trocmé, the wife of the Protestant pastor of Le Chambon, André Trocmé, opened the door of the presbytery one day during the Second World War. There was a Jewish family seeking refuge. Her response was simple, “Come in! Come in!” From that point on the village became a refuge for Jews seeking to escape; hundreds were helped to safety in Switzerland.

When we take to heart this Instruction of God and when we have a supportive community, it is easier to respond to those in need.

It is not an act of heroism.

It is merely being the human person whom God wants us to be.

It’s a no-brainer.

You can read my reflection on today’s Gospel of the Good Samaritan here.

Letting the Good Samaritan serve

When St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames rebuilt the student center and church, there was a large wall in the gathering space that needed art. Finally, the committee asked Jo Myers-Walker, an artist-parishioner, to do something. She conceived of a story wall with several arrangements of clay figures which would express the life of the parish.

One day I stopped by Jo’s workshop and we talked about the Good Samaritan story which was to be one of the scenes. Since I was the staff person facilitating charity, justice and peace ministries in the parish, I think she wanted to put me in the role of the Good Samaritan.

I told her, however, that my experience, especially in Latin America (up to that point mostly in El Salvador), had been full of experiences in which the poor had been the Good Samaritan for me. They are the outcasts who see the person in need, feel compassion, and draw near.

They, often without realizing it, have healed my wounds – especially of my heart and spirit.

And so, when the wall was unveiled, I marveled at the Good Samaritan, who is Latin American, caring for a person who looks a lot like me. (I actually think he look more like my dad than me.)


This healing by the outcast happens to me even now. How often a kind word has brightened my spirits. How casually they speak of God in a way that opens my heart to God.

And how often they have come to the rescue when my car has broken down.

This week, on the way to a workshop about 15 minutes from Dulce Nombre, my brakes went out. I was able safely to get the pickup to a mechanic in Dulce Nombre who changed the brake pad.

I was going to be late for the meeting, if I got there at all. But Moisés came to the rescue. In his old pickup he came and got me and then brought me back to the mechanic.

It’s not the first time and probably won’t be the last.

I wonder why I’ve experienced such compassion from people with so little.

It might be partly due to being a lay missionary, who has worked in this parish almost six years.

But I wonder if there is something deeper. Perhaps some of those who have suffered isolation and marginalization have let these experiences open up reserves of compassion in the depth of their souls.

Suffering can make people bitter and isolate them even more. But at times suffering is redemptive and opens up the love that is at the base of our beings, that Love who made us, in the image of that Love who is God.

May we let our experiences of suffering – and being helped by the Good Samaritans of the world – open us to be good Samaritans.

I wrote this entry Saturday morning before going out to a parish zone meeting in El Zapote de Santa Rosa, planning to post it on Sunday morning.

As I left the meeting with 7 people in the pickup, people ran to the truck asking if we could take a woman to the hospital in Santa Rosa – 90 minutes away. Of course.

She had been washing clothes near a well and her husband came and had attacked her with a machete.

Three friends went with her – holding her in the back of the truck.

Several of us tried to contact the police to come and arrest the man. We’ll se if anything happened.

We got to the hospital and she was taking immediately into the emergency room. As they lifted her out of the truck, I noted that her lower arm was cut to the bone and almost hanging off.

But what also troubled me was the look of terror on the faces of two little kids, probably her kids, as we waited to leave. What trauma.

I talked with one person in El Zapote who had called me asking about her. I told him to try to mobilize the faith community to help her family.

I’ll continue to try tonight to try to call people to make sure there are people to support her and her family.

Please pray for her.




A journalist of the poor

There are many types of journalists.

Some are spokespersons for those in power and report only what supports the continuation of their friends. They may be tempted by their access to power, to privilege.

Some only look for the strange and titillating, whether it be macabre deaths or the sex lives of the rich and famous.

But there are those who take their calling as journalists seriously and seek to find out what is really happening, in service of the truth.

Their writing challenges the status quo.

This can be dangerous. In Honduras in the last three years, 25 journalists have been killed, many for speaking out against political corruption, structural injustice, and organized crime.

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1989 of a US journalist who dared to speak the truth, Penny Lernoux.

She worked in Latin America and laid bare the structures of injustice in society and the church but even more she told the stories of the poor and those who cast their lot with the poor, especially in her first book, Cry of the People: The Struggle for Human Rights in Latin America — The Catholic Church in Conflict with U.S. Policy.

But she was not one to just show up at press conferences or to get stories from US Embassies or government spokespersons. She listened to the poor where they lived. As she wrote:

It was through them that I became aware of and entered into another world — not that of the U.S. Embassy or the upper classes, which comprise the confines of most American journalists, but the suffering and hopeful world of the slums and peasant villages. The experience changed my life, giving me a new faith and a commitment as a writer to tell the truth of the poor to the best of my ability.

That brought her back to a practice of her Catholic faith and a deep understanding of the power of the powerless Christ. As she wrote:

 You can look at a slum or a peasant village… but it is only by entering into that world — by living in it — that you begin to understand what it is like to be powerless, to be like Christ.

Penny Lernoux’s challenge is to see the world through the eyes of the poor, to enter their lives to be with them in their joys and struggles.

It is the challenge that begins with the story of the Good Samaritan that is today’s Gospel (Luke 10: 25-37):

seeing the man who fell among thieves,
being moved by compassion,
going near,
touching the man,
pouring out oil and wine over wounds,
and lifting him up to take him
to a place of healing and rest.

 The priest and Levite looked on from afar; but the Samaritan drew near. So did Penny Lernoux. And so are we called to draw near.

This entry, as many others, owes much to Robert Ellsberg’s All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time.