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I had set aside today as a day to digest Pope Francis’ just-released encyclical “Fratelli Tutti”. I expected it would be quite a document (it actually topped 43,000 words!). In this post, I had planned to list some online insights from each of the chapters.

I never got past the second of the eight chapters. This chapter marks only about 10% of the entire document. He walks us through the 290-word story of the Good Samaritan.

Let me skip immediately to his reframing of the victim abandoned by the roadside. After describing the various characters in terms we could relate to, he continues…

#76. Let us turn at last to the injured man. There are times when we feel like him, badly hurt and left on the side of the road. We can also feel helpless because our institutions are neglected and lack resources, or simply serve the interests of a few, without and within.  

Rereading the story from the perspective of our own experiences of anxieties is a wake-up call!

Pope Francis retells the story,  asks a question, and relates to our society

From the document…

Abandoned on the wayside

#63. Jesus tells the story of a man assaulted by thieves and lying injured on the wayside. Several persons passed him by, but failed to stop. These were people holding important social positions, yet lacking in real concern for the common good. They would not waste a couple of minutes caring for the injured man, or even in calling for help.

Only one person stopped, approached the man and cared for him personally, even spending his own money to provide for his needs. He also gave him something that in our frenetic world we cling to tightly: he gave him his time. Certainly, he had his own plans for that day, his own needs, commitments and desires. Yet he was able to put all that aside when confronted with someone in need. Without even knowing the injured man, he saw him as deserving of his time and attention.

#64. Which of these persons do you identify with? 

This question, blunt as it is, is direct and incisive. Which of these characters do you resemble? 

We need to acknowledge that we are constantly tempted to ignore others, especially the weak. 

Let us admit that, for all the progress we have made, we are still “illiterate” when it comes to accompanying, caring for and supporting the most frail and vulnerable members of our developed societies. 

We have become accustomed to looking the other way, passing by, ignoring situations until they affect us directly.

#65. Someone is assaulted on our streets, and many hurry off as if they did not notice. People hit someone with their car and then flee the scene. Their only desire is to avoid problems; it does not matter that, through their fault, another person could die. 

All these are signs of an approach to life that is spreading in various and subtle ways. 

What is more, caught up as we are with our own needs, the sight of a person who is suffering disturbs us. It makes us uneasy, since we have no time to waste on other people’s problems. 

These are symptoms of an unhealthy society. A society that seeks prosperity but turns its back on suffering.

——

Fr. Kevin Irwin suggests “Fratelli tutti” should be both read and prayed because it is “nothing less than about a way to reread and to live the Gospel for our times”.

In the rest of the encyclical, Pope Francis unpacks the societal implications of the story of those who fall by the wayside.

PS It also occurs to me that in telling the story of the Good Samaritan Jesus was describing himself in his mission to bring healing not only to the polarized world of his day but to ours!

I would love to hear your take on what you have read and whether it entices you to have courage as we try, not to return to “normal: but to “make all things new”.

Click below for an audio version of this VIncentian Mindwalk

The Good Samaritan – Healer for a Post-COVID World