Won’t you be my neighbor?

Our parish priest is in the hospital and could use some prayers, and in the meantime we’ve got a “loaner priest” from somewhere else taking the daily Masses. He’s got some interesting insights, and I wanted to share one. (Actually, I wanted to write it down so I’d remember it longer than five minu… OOH! Shiny!)

{{…wanders off…}}

Okay, anyhow, the point was, the OT reading was from the Book of Jonah where Jonah, on being ordered to Nineveh, bravely turns his tail and flees. And the Gospel reading was when Jesus is asked, “Who is my neighbor?” ¬†Jesus replies to this with the parable of the Good Samaritan, and then adds, “So go and do likewise.”

Heard both of ’em a million times. Very nice. Right?

Except this new guy said something I didn’t expect. That both Jonah and the first two people in the Good Samaritan parable made the deliberate choice not to be neighbors to those in need. Whereas the Samaritan chooses to make himself the neighbor of the injured man on the side of the road.

So the question is, “Who is my neighbor?” and that’s passive. It’s someone saying, “So what is the minimum amount God wants me to do?”

And Jesus’s reply is, “Your neighbor is every person you choose to be a neighbor to,” with the heavy implication that we really ought to choose to be a neighbor to everyone.

I’d always gotten the “Be a neighbor to everyone” aspect but never figured out the choice part of it. It’s not passive; it’s active.



  1. Pat

    It is so cool, isn’t it, the way the Church can bring in a whole new idea just by the way the Old and New Testament readings are paired? I’d never thought of those two ideas together, but when I read your second paragraph I thought, “Hey, cool!”

    The Holy Spirit . . . wadda Guy . . .

  2. Ken Rolph

    I’ve understood this parable for years. It’s amazing that people don’t get it. We do try to tame the Scriptures so they are less demanding.

    You just have to remember that Jesus is tricksy. He takes a question (who is my neighbour? who do I have to care about?) and turns it into vision of you being a neighbour to someone unexpected at their point of their need. This means there is no limit to who is my neighbour. Jesus, as he often does, upends the question.