Parable of the Good Samaritan

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today we reflect on the parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Luke 10:25-37). A Doctor of the Law puts Jesus to the test with this question: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (v. 25). Jesus asks him to give the answer himself, and he gives it perfectly: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind: and your neighbor as yourself” (v. 27). Then Jesus concludes: “do this, and you will live” (v. 28).

Then that man poses another question, which becomes very valuable for us: “who is my neighbor?” (v. 29), and he infers: “my parents? My fellow countrymen? Those of my religion? …” In sum, he wants a clear rule that enables him to classify others in “neighbor” and “non-neighbor,” in those who can become neighbors and those who cannot become neighbors.

And Jesus answers with a parable, placing at the scene a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan. The first two are figures linked to the worship of the Temple; the third is a schismatic Jew, considered as a foreigner, pagan and impure, namely the Samaritan. On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the priest and the Levite come across a dying man, that brigands had assaulted, robbed and abandoned. In similar situations, the Lord’s Law foresaw the obligation to help him, but both passed beyond without stopping. They were in a hurry … The priest perhaps looked at his watch and said: “But I’ll be late for Mass … I must say the Mass.” The other one said: “But, I don’t know if the Law allows me, because there is blood there and I will be impure …” They go on another way and do not approach him.

And here the parable offers us a first teaching: it is not automatic that one who frequents God’s house and knows His mercy is able to love his neighbor. It is not automatic! One can know the whole Bible, one can know all the liturgical rubrics, one can know all the theology, but from knowing, loving is not automatic: loving has another way, intelligence is needed but also something more … The priest and the Levite saw, but ignored; looked but did not provide. Yet true worship does not exist if it is not translated into service to one’s neighbor. Let us never forget it: in the face of the suffering of so many people destroyed by hunger, by violence and by injustices, we cannot remain spectators. What does it mean to ignore man’s suffering? It means to ignore God! If I do not approach that man, or that woman, that child, that elderly man or elderly woman that is suffering, I do not come close to God.

But let us come to the center of the parable: the Samaritan, that is, in fact, the one who was scorned, the one on whom no one would have wagered anything and who, nevertheless, also had his commitments and his things to do — when he saw the wounded man, he did not pass beyond like the other two, who were linked to the Temple, but “he had compassion” (v. 33). So says the Gospel: “he had compassion,” that is, his heart, was moved; he was moved within! See the difference. The other two “saw,” but their hearts remained closed, cold. Instead, the Samaritan’s heart was attuned to God’s heart itself. In fact, “compassion” is an essential characteristic of God’s mercy. God has compassion for us. What does it mean? He suffers with us; He feels our sufferings. Compassion means: “to share with.” The word indicates that something within us moves and trembles on seeing man’s ill. And in the gestures and the actions of the Good Samaritan we recognize God’s merciful action in the whole history of salvation. It is the same compassion with which the Lord comes to meet each one of us: He does not ignore us, He knows our sorrows; He knows how much we need help and consolation. He comes close to us and never abandons us. Each one of us should ask himself the question and answer in his heart: “Do I believe this? Do I believe that the Lord has compassion for me, just as I am, a sinner, with so many problems and so many things?” Think of this and the answer is: “Yes!” But each one must look into his heart to see if he has faith in this compassion of God, of the good God who comes close, who heals us, who caresses us. And if we refuse Him, He waits: He is patient and is always at our side.

The Samaritan behaved with true mercy: he dressed that man’s wounds, he took him to the inn, took personal care of him and provided for his assistance. All this teaches us that compassion, love, is not a vague feeling, but it means to take care of the other even to paying in person. It means to commit oneself, taking all the necessary steps to “come close” to the other, to the point of identifying oneself with him” “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Behold the Lord’s Commandment.

The parable having ended, Jesus turns around the question of the Doctor of the Law and asks him: “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (v. 36) Finally, the answer is unequivocal: “The one who showed mercy on him” (v. 27) At the beginning of the parable, for the priest and the Levite their neighbor was the dying man; at the end <of the parable> it is the Samaritan who came close. Jesus turns the perspective around: not to classify others to see who is a neighbor and who is not. You can become a neighbor to anyone you meet in need, and you will be so if you have compassion in your heart, that is, if you have that capacity to suffer with the other.

This parable is a stupendous gift for all of us, and also a commitment! Jesus repeats to each one of us what He said to the Doctor of the Law: “Go and do likewise” (v. 37). We are all called to follow the same path of the Good Samaritan, who is a figure of Christ: Jesus bent over us, made Himself our servant, and thus He saved us, so that we too are able to love as He loved us, in the same way.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]


In Italian

I greet the Italian-speaking pilgrims, in particular you, faithful of the dioceses of Chieti-Vasto, Novara, Alessandria, Chiavari and Pavia, led by your respective Bishops, and I hope that your Jubilee pilgrimage is rich in fruits for the benefit of your diocesan communities. I greet the faithful of Pattada, Tradate, Sant’Andrea in Andria and Santa Maria Maddalena in Dossobuono.

A thought goes to the Redemptorist Missionaries, to the priest educators of the Major Seminaries affiliated to the Urbanian University and to all those taking part in the Seminar promoted by the University of the Holy Cross.

I greet the young people, the especially numerous pupils of the schools, the sick and the newlyweds. To you, dear young people, I wish that you always be faithful to your Baptism, witnessing the joy that comes from the encounter with Jesus. I exhort you, dear sick, to look at Him who conquered death and who helps you to accept your sufferings as an occasion of redemption and salvation. Finally, I invite you, dear newlyweds, to think and live the daily family experience with a look of love that “bears all things and endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).


[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

General Audience: On the Parable of the Good Samaritan


Pope Francis surprise visit in Rome: “transform deserts”

(Vatican Radio)  “We must not be afraid to go into the desert and to transform it into a forest:” that’s what Pope Francis told hundreds of people on a surprise visit to an Earth Day Italy and Focolari Movement event in a Rome park Sunday.

In the more than hour-long visit, the Pope listened to testimonials from members of the many volunteer social and environmental organizations participating in “Village for Earth” and “Mariapolis,” a four day event in Rome’s Villa Borghese park.

The idea behind these gatherings, which take place in many countries throughout the world, is the invitation “to do to others what we would like to be done to us.” Many of the 3,500 people participating in the Rome event are involved in networks of social solidarity, interreligious dialogue, and organizations which care for the environment.

Turn deserts of our cities, the lives of others, into forests

Pope Francis arrived just before 5:00 pm, but set aside his prepared remarks, preferring to speak off the cuff.  He told  those present “you transform deserts into forests!”  “There are many deserts in the cities,” the Pope continued, “deserts in people’s lives who don’t have a future, because there’s always – I’ll underline a word here – always there are prejudices, fears.  These people live and die in the desert of the cities.  You perform a miracle with your work of changing the desert into a forest: go forward that way.”

“The desert is ugly, both the desert in the heart of all of us, as well as the desert in the city, in the peripheries, which is also an ugly thing.  There’s also a desert that’s in the gated neighborhoods…it’s ugly, but the desert is there too.  We must not be afraid to go to the desert to transform it into a forest, where there’s exuberant life, and to go dry the many tears so that everyone can smile.”

Pope Francis urged them to not be discouraged by failures and challenges: “You must not be afraid of life or afraid of conflicts.”

Conflict is a risk but also an opportunity

Conflict, he said, “is a risk, but it’s also an opportunity.” Citing the parable of the Levite and the priest who walked past the man who had stumbled along the path, the Pope said, they took the “path of not seeing and not getting involved.”

“We can react to conflict as something from which we distance ourselves,” he observed.  But, “whoever doesn’t take risks, can never get close to reality.  To know reality, to know it in one’s heart, it’s necessary to get close.”  Taking  the example of prison ministry, the Pope added that getting close is “a risk, but it’s also an opportunity: for me, and for the person whom I approach.  For me, and for the community I approach.”

“Never, never, never, turn away in order not to see conflict,” stressed the Pope.  “Conflict has to be faced, evils have to be faced, in order to resolve them.”

Pope Francis then challenged those present to do some homework: “look at the faces of people when you go into the street – they are worried, everyone is closed in on themselves; they lack a smile.  In other words, they lack tenderness, social friendship… they lack social friendship.”

A lack of “social friendship” brings hatred and war

“Where there isn’t social friendship,” he said, “there’s always hatred and war. We are living a piecemeal Third World War, everywhere.  Look at the geographic map of the world, and you’ll see.”

“Social friendship has to do with forgiveness,” he added.  “Many times, that’s done by getting close:  I approach this problem, this conflict, this difficulty, as we heard is done by these great young people in the places where there’s gambling, and so many people there lose everything, everything, everything…”

He mentioned the work of those who minister to people affected by gamblingand remembered his own pastoral work in Buenos Aires where he “saw elderly people who went  to the bank to get their pensions and then headed immediately for the casino.”

Social friendship, he added, “has to do with gratuity [giving freely of oneself], and one has to learn the wisdom of gratuity, learn it with play…with sport, with art, with the joy of being together, with getting close.”

Counter the god of money with gratuity, forgiveness

Today, “it seems that if you don’t pay you can’t live,” the Pope noted. “The man and woman that God created to be the center of the world…at the center of the economy,” “are thrown out and instead, we have at the center at the center a god, the god of money”

Gratuity, giving freely of oneself, and forgiveness are the antidotes to such a negative world – as is a constructive, rather than destructive, mindset.   And, “with forgiveness,” he said, “regret and resentment fall away.”

But how to achieve such a forest in the desert?  “Simply [by possessing] the awareness that we all have something in common, we’re all human,” concluded Pope Francis.  “And in this humanity, we can get close to each other to work together” regardless of our background or religion the Pope affirmed.

“Let’s all go forward to work together, respecting each other, respecting!” he added.  “I see this miracle: the miracle of a desert that becomes a forest.  Thanks for everything you do!”


Francis’ message to seminarians: If the priesthood’s not for you, seek another path

The seminary is not a refuge for those who have “psychological problems” or lack the courage “to get on in life”. The seminary is a place where one develops their vocation, gaining an in depth understanding of the Gospel, Confession, the Eucharist and prayer. This was the advice Pope Francis gave members of the Pontifical Leonine College of Anagni – particularly seminarians – in an audience held today in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican Apostolic Palace. It was an opportunity for the Pope to give some frank advice to those preparing for the priesthood at the institute founded by Leo XIII in 1897. The Pontifical Leonine College of Anagni trains future priests of the Italian region of Lazio: “If you are not willing to follow this path with these attitudes and these experiences, – and I say this from the heart, without meaning to offend anyone – it is better to have the courage to seek another.”

“Dear seminarians, what you are preparing for is not a profession, you are not training to work in a business or a bureaucratic organization,” Francis said. “We have so many priests who have gone half way … it’s sad that they did not manage to go the whole way; they have something of the employee in them, something of the bureaucrat in them and this is not good for the Church. Please be careful you don’t fall into this! You are becoming pastors in the image of Jesus, the good pastor. Your aim is to resemble him and act on behalf of him amidst his flock, letting his sheep graze.” Francis presented the four “pillars” of seminary learning: “spiritual, intellectual, community and apostolic”. He reiterated what he had said to religious superiors general during a discussion published by Italian Jesuit periodical Civiltà Cattolica last January: “The four pillars must interact from your very first day as novices; they must never follow a structured sequence.”

“We respond to this vocation in the same way as the Virgin Mary does to the angel: “How is this possible?” Becoming “good shepherds” in the image of Jesus “is something very great and we are so small.” “Yes, it is true, it is too great; but it is not our work! It is the work of the Holy Spirit, with our collaboration,” Francis said in his address to the College, adding spontaneous comments here and there to his prepared speech. “It is about humbly giving oneself, like clay that is to be moulded, letting God the potter work the clay with fire and water, with the Word and the Holy Spirit.” It is true that “at the beginning intentions are not completely righteous, and it is hard for them to be so”: All of us have had moments when our intentions were not completely righteous but in time this changes with everyday conversion. Think of the apostles! Think of James and John. One of them wanted to be prime minister and the other a minister of the economy because it was a more important role. The apostles’ mind was elsewhere but the Lord patiently corrected their intention and in the end the intention of their preaching and martyrdom was incredibly righteous.”

Being good shepherds means “meditating on the Gospel every day to pass its message on through one’s life and preaching.” It also means experiencing God’s mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.” “It is vital to always go to confession so you can become generous and merciful ministers because you will feel God’s mercy upon you, encouraging you to become generous and merciful ministers.” It means feeding on faith and love of the Eucharist in order to provide nourishment to the Christian people.” “It means being men of prayer so as to become the voice of Christ that praises the Father and constantly intercedes for their brothers.” If you are not willing to follow this path, with these attitudes and these experiences, – and I say this from the heart, without meaning to offend anyone – it is better to have the courage to seek another. There are many ways, in the Church, to bear Christian witness and there are many paths that lead to the sainthood. Following in Christ’s ministry allows no place for mediocrity, who always leads to using the holy people of God to one’s own advantage. Woe to bad shepherds who feed themselves and not their flock! – the prophets said,” Francis added, quoting Ezekiel. “Augustine quotes this prophetic phrase in the De pastoribus, which I advise you to read and meditate on. Woe to bad shepherds because the seminary is not a refuge for the many shortcomings we may have; it is not a refuge for psychological problems or a refuge for those who do not have the courage to go on in life and see the seminary as a place that will defend them. No, that is not what it is. If that is what your seminary was it would become a mortgage for the Church! No, the seminary is there for people to move forward, along this path and when we hear the prophets exclaim the word “Woe” it should lead you to reflect seriously on your future. Pius XI once said it was better to lose a vocation than to risk accepting a candidate who is not sure. He was a mountain climber, he knew about this things.”

The Pope ended his address by entrusting seminarians to the Virgin Mary. “Russian mystics used to say that in moments of spiritual upheaval we must take refuge under the cape of the Holy Mother of God,” Francis said. So we must go out “wearing Mary’s cape.” The seminarians came to Rome on foot from the town of Anagni. The Pope described their pilgrimage as a beautiful symbol of the journey they are called to undertake in Christ’s love.


Feast Day of St. John Baptist de La Salle



Today, April 7, we celebrate the feast day of Saint John Baptist de la Salle (1651-1719), patron saint of teachers. Pope Pius XII declared, in his proclamation of the patronage of Saint John Baptist, “The saying of Saint Bonaventure that they only are true educators who can kindle in the hearts of their students the vision of beauty, illuminate it with the light of truth, and form it to virtue’ is particularly appropriate at the present time when the education of the young is not only frequently at variance with the principles of true moral training, but is often godless and irreligious, and thus harmful in the extreme.

For this reason, the Church cherishes with a great affection those whose duty it is to educate the young, all the more so as the welfare and development of the Christian commonwealth depend on them in no small measure. A man of outstanding holiness and remarkable genius, JOHN BAPTIST DE LA SALLE, once educated the young, and still, through the Institute founded by him, continues to do so according to excellent principles and methods.”

Saint John Baptist de la Salle is remembered for his complete dedication to the will of the Lord in his life, even when it ran counter to his plans and expectations, even his comfort and enjoyment. Born into a privileged life, with many things going for him—including wealth, status, education, charm and good looks—Saint John had the world at his fingertips. He chose the priesthood, both he and his family expecting a comfortable and influential appointment within the Church.

But the Lord had other plans for Saint John. John’s heart became inflamed with love for the education of “wayward” boys—those who had no schooling, those in trouble with the law, the crumbs that society had attempted to sweep under the proverbial carpet. Saint John found himself constructing schools and surrounded by these “morally inferior” students, which was both unnerving and uncomfortable for him. Despite his distaste for the work he was doing, Saint John recognized the call of the Lord, and through himself into the work. He created several schools in Raven, where he was stationed, giving up a privileged position within the Church to continue his work.

In his own words:
“I had imagined that the care which I assumed of the schools and the masters would amount only to a marginal involvement committing me to no more than providing for the subsistence of the masters and assuring that they acquitted themselves of their tasks with piety and devotedness … Indeed, if I had ever thought that the care I was taking of the schoolmasters out of pure charity would ever have made it my duty to live with them, I would have dropped the whole project. … God, who guides all things with wisdom and serenity, whose way it is not to force the inclinations of persons, willed to commit me entirely to the development of the schools. He did this in an imperceptible way and over a long period of time so that one commitment led to another in a way that I did not foresee in the beginning.”

Saint John Baptist subsequently created a religious order, The Brothers of the Christian School (the de la Salle Brothers), dedicated to building schools and sustaining the religious and educational instruction of youth. The community grew rapidly, as did the number of schools built and staffed. Saint John instituted progressive changes in instructional methods, which many secular and religious educators resisted. For example, Saint John began teaching students in the vernacular languages of their regions, rather than instructing in Latin. He introduced the “simultaneous method” of teaching, still used today—where students of equal age and ability are grouped together, taught from one text, and under the instruction of one teacher. The schools his order created were free, open to all (regardless of class, race, or origin), and were made to be enjoyable for students. He promoted the idea of “universal education”—one we believe without question today. As the reputation of his schools grew, so, too, did their enrollment.

Recognizing the plight of poor girls, Saint John Baptist subsequently became the spiritual director of the Sisters of the Holy Infant, an order dedicated to serving that community. In this way, he further extended the construct of “universal education” to women—an uncommon (and unpopular) idea at the time.

While his instructional style was based in the scientific method, Saint John Baptist was primarily a moral theologian, and religious and moral instruction was central to the teachings of his schools. His treatise, “A Method of Mental Prayer,” is still used today.

Saint John Baptist lived an austere life, residing with his brothers, and observing the rules of austerity he created for the order. Far from the life of luxury, comfort, and privilege he imagined as a youth, Saint John remained focused on his calling, the will of the Lord in his life, until the very end. Saint John worked tirelessly until his death, on Good Friday in 1719. Throughout his life, he met with constant opposition to his calling, his teaching methods, and the love and care he bestowed on the “undesirable” youth he served. Worn out by this opposition, he succumbed to illness surrounded by his brothers.

The de la Salle brothers continue to educate today, throughout the world, teaching in primary and secondary schools, universities and technical colleges. Many of the techniques developed and promoted by Saint John continue to be used in classrooms—both religious and secular.

Saint John Baptist’s life reminds us of our competing priorities– how often our own plans and hopes for our life conflict or challenge the call of the Lord to do greater things for His glory.  We are inspired to obedience, even when we find the call challenging, distasteful, or unexpected.  Saint John Baptist de la Salle demonstrated throughout his life unwavering faith in the Lord, despite earthly opposition and difficulty.  Through his faith and obedience he revolutionized the way that educational instruction– likely including that which we receieved– was delivered throughout the world.  What can we accomplish through obedience to our gracious Lord?

Day 97 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Obedience to the will of God; For all those involved in education.
Requested Intentions: For a friend’s daughter, seeking medical treatment for a blood disorder (D); For the grace and conversion of a loved one (Z); For a beloved son’s return to the faith (A); For the improved health and recovery of a mother (G); For health, blessings, and protection (K); For an improvement in a difficult employment situation (T); For a family member’s recovery from surgery (D); For the victims of an automobile accident (D); For peace of mind and health (J); For the love of a romantic partner (S).