Were you there?

Homily – Sunday, the 10th July 2022

Reading Luke 10: 25-37
view the Order of Service here

I am sure there could have been several occasions in our life where we sincerely desired- Wish I had someone to lean on to, to hold on to. Wish I had a neighbour

But do we hear the soft still voice that reverberates around us each day:

When I needed a neighbour were you there?

The creed and the color and the name wont matter- Were you there?

When I was hungry and thirsty, were you there?

When I was cold and naked, were you there?

When I needed a shelter, When I needed a healer, were you there?

The gospel lesson that we read today talks of a young man who asks a very pertinent question- What must I do to inherit eternal life? Many a times people ask this question too late. They take God and eternity for granted and tries to hide behind science. But at some point they realise that it is like the ostrich with its head in the sand.

Jesus was summarising the law and the commandments in response to the question. The secret to eternal life he put it in two phrases- Love God and Love your neighbour. The lawyer had a question- Who is this neighbour and Jesus’ answer was the parable of the Good Samaritan.

To provide a frame or a scaffolding to the homily may I bring to your attention the theological concept of Pathos. Pathos is a profound Greek word that basically means Suffering, Experience or Emotion. Prof. A P Nirmal who taught us Dalit theology defined pathos as the collective experience of pain of the marginalised and subdued people. Raj Bharat writes, “Nirmal proposes methodological exclusivism as the method in doing Dalit Theology, and articulates pathos as epistemological basis and historical Dalit consciousness as the hermeneutical key in Dalit theologizing. The aim of Dalit theology is to make justice, peace, equality and liberation a reality for all people who suffer exclusion and marginalisation.”

The focal point is to understand the pathos- the depth of the suffering and the emotional implications of the experience on individuals and communities.

How does this concern you and me. In fact, the story of the Good Samaritan reveals five elements of this pathos. It would be good to reflect on where we can place ourselves.

The Five Kinds of People

1. Antipathy (The one who causes the suffering)

The one who grabs what belongs to the other- The thieves on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho introduced in the story as robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.

We live in a consumeristic society.

Consumerism diverts us from thinking about the pain, the rights and needs of the others and shapes us to think only about what we can get- whatever be the price others will have to pay for it.

Once this mind set takes over- we would not be thinking of what is happening in SriLanka, the plight of the people suffering from a war, the denial of rights of several people under authoritarian regimes

We will not be worried about the cruelty being done to creation in the name of development.

The watchword of consumerism is greed.

Eric Fromm says Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the want without ever reaching satisfaction.

Robert Sirico says The reason that greed or avarice is one of the “deadly sins” is that it kills the soul to the extent that it substitutes things for God as the object of worship. Ungods which are material objects takes the place of God.

Moral violations in grabbing what actually belongs to the other does not worry them because greed numbs the conscience.

The thieves in this story, unnamed as they are are very much around us today.

The Pathos of People (The one who experience the suffering)

The traveller robbed, stripped, beaten and left half dead on the way side

Let us take a close look at the picture of  the wounded man on the road side. Though the pathway was known for dacoity this sudden change of plight would have been unexpected

All that he had was taken away, even his dignity to the extend that he was stripped. He was left almost dead on the wayside.

There are many around us literally so- left to fend for themselves on the waysides

Hungry as they are, thirsty as they are, homeless as they are, refugees as they are, exploited as they are, they cry out for help

Lonely as they are, Distressed as they are, emotionally shattered as they are, mentally at brokenness as they are, crushed as they are

They are there on the waysides

When I needed a neighbour, were you there?

The cry still reverberates around us

I was closely following what was happening in SriLanka

No fuel, No food, People storming the Presidents House and Burning the Prime Ministers residence

People are on the streets across the globe

Women and children crying out, the trafficked and the displaced seeking spaces of safety

The Waysides are full of suffering people we do not see

The Apathy (The one who is not moved by the suffering of the other)

The ones who pass by the other side

Helen Keller once reminded us Science may have found a cure for most evils, but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all- the apathy of human beings.

It is when you read history with apathy that you fail to commit yourself not to allow the mistakes and atrocities to repeat itself

It is the apathy of a generation to the exploitation of nature that is gradually leading to a state of irredeemable tragedy.

Kosuke Koyama said- Our sense of the presence of God will be distorted if we fail to see God’s reality in terms of our neighbor’s reality. And our sense of our neighbor’s reality will be disfigured unless seen in terms of God’s reality.

That was the issue of the religious persons- they walked the other way

Religiosity today has lost its sensitivity to the pain of the neighbour. We just pass by as if we have not seen it, as if it is none of our business

Apathy has made us prisoners of inaction. It is reflected in a strange manifestation of selfishness in thought, word, action and dreams.

The Empathy (The one who takes the suffering of others as their own)

The Samaritan who stopped by saw him, had compassion, went to him, bandaged his wounds, shared his oil and wine, took him on his animal, brought him to the inn, took care of him, paid for him and promised to return and take care of the rest.

“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of suffering, listening with the ears of suffering and feeling with the heart of the suffering.” – Alfred Adler

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy, we can all sense a mysterious connection to each other.”  – Meryl Streep

“Empathy may be the single most important quality that must be nurtured to give peace a fighting chance.” –  Arundhati Ray

The call is to see, to have compassion, to come by, to nurse the wounds, to share the resources of oil and wine, to change your priroties and plans, carry the wounded in your animal, knock at the inns, entrust the wounded to healing hands,  take responsibility of the expences and  promising to come again. It is a relationshop built, a deep connection made.

“Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow for other’s good, and melt at other’s woe.” – Homer

The Sympathy: (The one who feels with the suffering of the other)

The Inn Keeper is an important character in this story. He was willing to provide space for the wounded traveller and participate in his quest for healing, He was happy to facilitate the process of restoration. Yes the Samaritan offered him some resources but then he did not bother about the promise that the excess that might be incurred could be paid back later. He took him in.

I would imagine that the Samaritan would have knocked a few doors which would have like in the nativity scene slammed at him saying- there is no room in the inn. But here this man opened his door for the stranger and decide to commit to the well being of the wounded person

Friends, that is the call to be the church today. Be open and welcoming to wounded strangers that Jesus would be carrying to our door steps.

When we farewelled Margaret her epitaph just read- Oma Africa. She welcomed people and that was evident in the warmth that was manifest in her farewell. She gave them the welcome touch, the embrace that was therapeutic, she sympathised with the ones who were homesick in a far away city called Freiburg.

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.

Luke 10:36-37

But do we hear the soft still voice that reverberates around us each day:

When I needed a neighbour were you there?

The creed and the color and the name wont matter- Were you there?

When I was hungry and thirsty, were you there?

When I was cold and naked, were you there?

When I needed a shelter, When I needed a healer, were you there?

Vinod Victor

June 10, 2022

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