Back in 1990, Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) spoke to a group about the Christian life and the good Samaritan. The title of the text was based on Isaiah 58:7 “Do not disregard those of your own flesh”. The message is clear: you can’t pretend to live your faith if you aren’t willing to make it real, to incarnate the faith in the flesh. Maybe we should all ask ourselves: How willing am I to live my faith in the flesh? It’s one thing to discover God in a beautifully decorated and pleasantly incensed chapel (and, indeed, He is there!). It is another thing, however, to discover Jesus in the person by our side, in that person who perhaps smells bad, dresses horribly or annoys the living daylights out of you. It’s certainly a challenge, but both are “places” where we must see and love God. Take one without the other, and you have let your Christianity slip right out of your hands.
Today’s video is one of many “social experiments” that remind us (whether they be staged or not, sometimes it is hard to tell. In any case they still serve to make a point) that often the more “respectable” people of our society are the first ones to “pass by on the other side” (Lk 10:31). I will be the first one to admit that I too commit the same negligence.
The challenge is a little idea that resides in our head and whispers a wonderfully comfortable idea: just don’t break the rules, be pious and you will reach holiness. Christian life in this case is something like a stationary exercise bike. Do your exercises, sweat a bit, but don’t worry about going outside your comfort zone. Leave the air-conditioning on and put on your favorite tv series while you are at it.
I am certainly all for indoor exercise bikes, but if you aren’t willing to go pick up the off-road bike when it is needed, you have utterly missed the point. Scratches and banged up knees (or worse) are part of the adventure which we call the Christian life.
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Why is this stuff so important? Because if we aren’t willing to take the uncertain path, the one that implies jagged rocks and untrimmed tree branches, then how on earth are we going to help others in a tough spot? Christ loved because he jumped right into the experience of the person. No wonder it was a homeless man that helped the boy! Having suffered his pain, he knew how to bend down and literally embrace his fragility, his weakness, his feelings of abandonment. He is the good Samaritan. He knew how to draw close to the flesh, to break his routine, to set aside his task of busyness, to sacrifice his comfort, so as to shed warmth on another. He gave, not because he had too much, but because he knew how it feels to have nothing.
Remember, our model is always Christ. What did he do? He redeemed us precisely by assuming the pain of all flesh, he becomes “neighbor” to the flesh of all. He experienced tiredness, hunger, frustration, sadness. He cried and laughed. And it is He who will be our judge. The Word that “became flesh” (Jn 1:14) will judge us, not according to the guidelines set down by an abstract or merely “spiritual” ethic, but according to whether we knew how to draw close to “all the flesh”, discovering there the fullness of the Word of God.
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