A few years ago I read the autobiography of Martin Niemuller, a protestant clergyman in Germany during and after the Second World War, who spent several years in Nazi concentration camps. Like the priest in today’s gospel, he knew what it was like to pass by the beaten man by the roadside. He wrote: “In Germany, the Nazis came for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came up for Trade Unionists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and because I wasn’t a Catholic I didn’t speak up. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one to speak up for anyone.”
Newspapers, radio, television, the internet all bring the world’s troubles into our daily lives. We see so much live coverage of bloodshed, violence, starvation and tragedy that it takes more and more to move us to compassion. Unless it is someone we know who is killed or loses their job or who needs a new kidney, we often sit back and do nothing. The knowledge of great need goes into our head, but needs to reach our hearts before we react.
In the first reading, Saint Paul comes down hard on the Galatians who are trying to place the burden of Jewish Law on the backs of Gentile Christians. Saint Paul insists that this isn’t compatible with the Gospel preached by Christ. That Gospel challenges us to show love by lifting burdens, not laying down heavier ones. The Good Samaritan didn’t have to inquire about the law first. He simply looked at the other man’s need and his own means to help and acted accordingly. As we receive Our Lord in Holy Communion today, we might reflect on how we could be a Good Samaritan to someone we know who may be in need.