When I was younger, I understood so well what the word “neighbor” really meant. Of course, they were the ones residing close to our house and I knew them as friends of our family. They were the ones who would usually lend a helping hand to us during those times when we needed help and support. They were the ones whom we could really count on in times of emergencies and calamities.
Neighbors, for me, are natural friends. They are the ones whom you can always look up to in times of need and difficulties. However, in the passage of time, I believe that my initial concept of a “neighbor” had changed, not because I wanted to change it, but maybe it’s because of the fact that people really change.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan tells us of a story of a good neighbor. It is not bound by the territorial or geographical limits, but being neighbors to one another is clearly manifested by the way we treat other people. To be a real neighbor would mean helping others selflessly when they need help even if it means walking that “extra mile” for them. It would mean helping others bring out the best in them for the good of all. Neighbor is a relationship among us where love and real concern for the good of the other person is a necessity. It’s just a pity that this kind of good relationships between neighbors had been tarnished over and over again. What has gone wrong? I hope our good manners and those positive and timeless values did not die with our forefathers.
A lot of things have changed especially in terms of our relationships. Gone were the days when we can just leave our house wide open and entrust its safety to our neighbors. Now, we need to guard our properties, and of course our family, from possible outside attacks and sometimes we also need to be on-guard against attacks from very people whom we consider as neighbors. The world has gone mad, indeed, and we really need to ask ourselves once more… who is my neighbor?
The Samaritan in the Gospel last Sunday showed mercy to the man victimized by robbers. His heart was moved with so much pity for the man that he decided to go against his usual way just to be able to help him and ensure his well-being. He spent some amount of money, which he might also need for himself, realizing that the man in trouble needed it more than him. What he showed as an example is one of the things that has been forgotten by almost everyone today. Love and mercy are slowly becoming things of the past and values of the fool. True enough because in our society enveloped in tyranny and fear, disregard for life and our innate rights, to love and to have pity is a misfit.
People who are insensitive to the needs of others, people who know no one else but themselves alone, people who are never concerned about what others’ feel are people who have no capacity to love others but only themselves. These are the people who never experienced having a real neighbor to stand by and for them in times of their need. These are the people whom we meet each day and they continue to grow every day. But then, I do not consider them to be the insensitive and uncaring “Priest” and “Levite” in the gospel. Maybe these people were victims, too, of robbers who took away their innocence and virtues because they might not have been given a fair chance to develop those good values and principles in them. The situation to where they were introduced may have robbed them of their beautiful intentions and, instead, display a life of insensitivity to others and to a life that is indifferent to Christian principles.
The challenge for all of us now is not on how to find victims and be able to help them rise up from their misery. The real challenge is on how we can help those who have fallen astray and those who had stopped their journey to the Kingdom get back once again into the fold. We need to help those victims of false beliefs and false ideas which prompted them to wander away from the love of God. In the light of our Christian faith, whom do we really consider as pitiable?
People who live in palaces and mansions, those who are enjoying luxury to their topmost limits because they had their riches at the core of their being, are the ones deplorable. People who had become slaves to these worldly riches need our help. People who worry too much because they had lost their trust and confidence in the love of God need us to guide them back to the right path. Are we ready to become neighbors to people such as these ones?
The 1st Reading last Sunday taken from the Book of Deuteronomy sums it all: “For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”
The commandments and statutes of the Lord are in our hearts and we only have to carry them out in our daily lives. It depends now on our daily decisions and plans because we truly know what is good and what is bad deep in our hearts. Even the scholar of the law who asked Jesus knew in his heart that the Samaritan is the real neighbor of the man who fell victims to robbers. So, Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”