Pope Francis: ‘The Heart of the Samaritan Was in Tune With the Heart of God’
Compassion is ‘an essential characteristic of God’s mercy,’ the Holy Father said at April 27 general audience.
VATICAN CITY — On Wednesday, Pope Francis said that just because someone is an expert in God’s law and a strict adherent to the rules doesn’t necessarily mean he knows how to love and serve others.
“It’s not automatic that whoever frequents the house of God and knows his mercy knows how to love his neighbor. It’s not automatic,” the Pope said April 27.
“You can know the Bible, you can know all the liturgical norms, you can know theology, but ‘to know’ is not automatically ‘to love,’” he said, explaining that “to love has another path, with intelligence, but it has something more.”
While knowledge and worship are good, they are false unless they are “translated into service of others,” Francis stressed.
“Let us never forget: In front of the suffering of so many people exhausted by hunger, violence, injustice, we cannot remain spectators. To ignore the suffering of man means to ignore God!”
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience, which he has dedicated to the topic of mercy as seen in Scripture for the Jubilee of Mercy.
In his speech, the Pope focused on the Gospel passage in Luke in which Jesus recounts the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
After telling the crowd that they must “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus is questioned by an expert of the Law, who presses him on who qualifies as a neighbor.
What this man is looking for, Francis said, is “a clear rule that permits him to classify the others into ‘neighbor’ and ‘non-neighbors,’ those who can become neighbors and those who cannot become neighbors.”
Jesus then responds with a parable including a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan. The first two are linked to their worship at the temple, while the third, the Samaritan, is “a schismatic Jew, considered as a stranger, a pagan and impure.”
Francis noted that the Law of the Lord obliged the priest and the Levite to help the suffering, injured man, yet they both pass without stopping. The despised Samaritan, on the other hand, doesn’t walk by the wounded man, but had compassion.
“That is the difference,” Pope Francis said. “The other two saw, but their hearts remained closed, cold. Instead, the heart of the Samaritan was in tune with the heart of God.”
Compassion is “an essential characteristic of God’s mercy,” the Pope continued, explaining that the compassion shown by the Good Samaritan is the same that God shows to each one of us.
The Lord, he said, “doesn’t ignore us — he knows our pains; he knows how much we need help and consolation. He comes close to us and never abandons us.”
In taking the wounded man to a hotel, caring for him and paying the bill, the Samaritan teaches us that love and compassion “are not a vague feeling,” but mean taking care of one another, even to the point of paying the expense in person.
“It means taking all the steps needed in order to draw close to the other,” he added.
Pope Francis then turned to Jesus’ question at the end of the passage, when he asks the so-called experts of Law which figure in the parable was a neighbor to the wounded man. The unanimous answer, he noted was: “The one who had compassion.”
Francis noted that this answer differed from what they initially said at the beginning.
“Jesus reverses the prospective,” he said, explaining that rather than sitting by and classifying who is a neighbor and who isn’t, “you can become the neighbor of anyone you meet in need, and you will be [neighborly] if in your heart you have compassion.”
The Pope closed his speech by saying the parable is “a stupendous gift” and a commitment for all to take into consideration.
“We are all called to follow the same path of the Good Samaritan, who is the figure of Christ,” he said, adding, “Jesus became our servant, and in doing so saved us, so that we can love one another as Jesus loved us.”