In my life and in my prayer, I often find myself asking the question: But how do I really know if I am doing what God is asking of me? St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians begs another form of the same question: What am I called to be and do in response to the good news that “came through a revelation of Jesus Christ”?
The scholar of the law in today’s Gospel, having really heard the parable that we know as the Good Samaritan, answers both questions with a single word—mercy.
Our lives are an unending parable like this. We have constant opportunities to walk the road of Jericho where we inevitably stumble upon the stripped and beaten, those from whom life has taken everything. At Mason Temple in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. closed the final oratory of his life with this same parable. He urged the sanitation workers and faithful in Memphis to practice “a kind of dangerous unselfishness.” It served as a fitting coda to King’s role in the long Civil Rights Movement. He fell the next day to the assassin’s bullet.
King’s life and that of the Samaritan traveler offer us the example of mercy lived in proximity to those who are hurting. We can embody the reign of God in these moments. Over and over again, we answer the question, “How do I really know if I am doing what God is asking of me?” Jesus answers us in the parable of our lives. When you practice mercy, he says. When you get proximate, he cries. When you engage in dangerous unselfishness, he whispers. Do what I do. Follow my lead because my name, God’s name, is mercy.
John DeCostanza, Jr.