Category Archives: Pope John Paul II

The Good Samaritan and human suffering

Watts_The-Good-SamaritanFrom Salvifici Doloris – On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering (1984), by Pope Saint John Paul II

THE GOOD SAMARITAN

28. To the Gospel of suffering there also belongs—and in an organic way—the parable of the Good Samaritan. Through this parable Christ wished to give an answer to the question: “Who is my neighbour?”(90) For of the three travellers along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, on which there lay half-dead a man who had been stripped and beaten by robbers, it was precisely the Samaritan who showed himself to be the real “neighbour” of the victim: “neighbour” means also the person who carried out the commandment of love of neighbour. Two other men were passing along the same road; one was a priest and the other a Levite, but each of them ” saw him and passed by on the other side”. The Samaritan, on the other hand, “saw him and had compassion on him. He went to him, … and bound up his wounds “, then “brought him to an inn, and took care of him”(91). And when he left, he solicitously entrusted the suffering man to the care of the innkeeper, promising to meet any expenses.

The parable of the Good Samaritan belongs to the Gospel of suffering. For it indicates what the relationship of each of us must be towards our suffering neighbour. We are not allowed to “pass by on the other side” indifferently; we must “stop” beside him. Everyone who stops beside the suffering of another person, whatever form it may take, is a Good Samaritan. This stopping does not mean curiosity but availability. It is like the opening of a certain interior disposition of the heart, which also has an emotional expression of its own. The name “Good Samaritan” fits every individual who is sensitive to the sufferings of others, who “is moved” by the misfortune of another. If Christ, who knows the interior of man, emphasizes this compassion, this means that it is important for our whole attitude to others’ suffering. Therefore one must cultivate this sensitivity of heart, which bears witness to compassion towards a suffering person. Some times this compassion remains the only or principal expression of our love for and solidarity with the sufferer.

Nevertheless, the Good Samaritan of Christ’s parable does not stop at sympathy and compassion alone. They become for him an incentive to actions aimed at bringing help to the injured man. In a word, then, a Good Samaritan is one who brings help in suffering, whatever its nature may be. Help which is, as far as possible, effective. He puts his whole heart into it, nor does he spare material means. We can say that he gives himself, his very “I”, opening this “I” to the other person. Here we touch upon one of the key-points of all Christian anthropology. Man cannot “fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself”(92). A Good Samaritan is the person capable of exactly such a gift of self.

29. Following the parable of the Gospel, we could say that suffering, which is present under so many different forms in our human world, is also present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one’s “I” on behalf of other people, especially those who suffer. The world of human suffering unceasingly calls for, so to speak, another world: the world of human love; and in a certain sense man owes to suffering that unselfish love which stirs in his heart and actions. The person who is a ” neighbour” cannot indifferently pass by the suffering of another: this in the name of fundamental human solidarity, still more in the name of love of neighbour. He must “stop”, “sympathize”, just like the Samaritan of the Gospel parable. The parable in itself expresses a deeply Christian truth, but one that at the same time is very universally human. It is not without reason that, also in ordinary speech, any activity on behalf of the suffering and needy is called “Good Samaritan” work.

In the course of the centuries, this activity assumes organized institutional forms and constitutes a field of work in the respective professions. How much there is of “the Good Samaritan” in the profession of the doctor, or the nurse, or others similar! Considering its “evangelical” content, we are inclined to think here of a vocation rather than simply a profession. And the institutions which from generation to generation have performed ” Good Samaritan” service have developed and specialized even further in our times. This undoubtedly proves that people today pay ever greater and closer attention to the sufferings of their neighbour, seek to understand those sufferings and deal with them with ever greater skill. They also have an ever greater capacity and specialization in this area. In view of all this, we can say that the parable of the Samaritan of the Gospel has become one of the essential elements of moral culture and universally human civilization. And thinking of all those who by their knowledge and ability provide many kinds of service to their suffering neighbour, we cannot but offer them words of thanks and gratitude.

These words are directed to all those who exercise their own service to their suffering neighbour in an unselfish way, freely undertaking to provide “Good Samaritan” help, and devoting to this cause all the time and energy at their disposal outside their professional work. This kind of voluntary “Good Samaritan” or charitable activity can be called social work; it can also be called an apostolate, when it is undertaken for clearly evangelical motives, especially if this is in connection with the Church or another Christian Communion. Voluntary “Good Samaritan” work is carried out in appropriate milieux or through organizations created for this purpose. Working in this way has a great importance, especially if it involves undertaking larger tasks which require cooperation and the use of technical means. No less valuable is individual activity, especially by people who are better prepared for it in regard to the various kinds of human suffering which can only be alleviated in an individual or personal way. Finally, family help means both acts of love of neighbour done to members of the same family, and mutual help between families.

It is difficult to list here all the types and different circumstances of “Good Samaritan” work which exist in the Church and society. It must be recognized that they are very numerous, and one must express satisfaction at the fact that, thanks to them, the fundamental moral values, such as the value of human solidarity, the value of Christian love of neighbour, form the framework of social life and interhuman relationships and combat on this front the various forms of hatred, violence, cruelty, contempt for others, or simple “insensitivity”, in other words, indifference towards one’s neighbour and his sufferings.

Here we come to the enormous importance of having the right attitudes in education. The family, the school and other education institutions must, if only for humanitarian reasons, work perseveringly for the reawakening and refining of that sensitivity towards one’s neighbour and his suffering of which the figure of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel has become a symbol. Obviously the Church must do the same. She must even more profoundly make her own—as far as possible—the motivations which Christ placed in his parable and in the whole Gospel. The eloquence of the parable of the Good Samaritan, and of the whole Gospel, is especially this: every individual must feel as if called personally to bear witness to love in suffering. The institutions are very important and indispensable; nevertheless, no institution can by itself replace the human heart, human compassion, human love or human initiative, when it is a question of dealing with the sufferings of another. This refers to physical sufferings, but it is even more true when it is a question of the many kinds of moral suffering, and when it is primarily the soul that is suffering.

30. The parable of the Good Samaritan, which —as we have said—belongs to the Gospel of suffering, goes hand in hand with this Gospel through the history of the Church and Christianity, through the history of man and humanity. This parable witnesses to the fact that Christ’s revelation of the salvific meaning of suffering is in no way identified with an attitude of passivity. Completely the reverse is true. The Gospel is the negation of passivity in the face of suffering. Christ himself is especially active in this field. In this way he accomplishes the messianic programme of his mission, according to the words of the prophet: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord”(93). In a superabundant way Christ carries out this messianic programme of his mission: he goes about “doing good”(94). and the good of his works became especially evident in the face of human suffering. The parable of the Good Samaritan is in profound harmony with the conduct of Christ himself.

Finally, this parable, through its essential content, will enter into those disturbing words of the Final Judgment, noted by Matthew in his Gospel: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was in prison and you came to me”(95). To the just, who ask when they did all this to him, the Son of Man will respond: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me”(96). The opposite sentence will be imposed on those who have behaved differently: “As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me”.”

One could certainly extend the list of the forms of suffering that have encountered human sensitivity, compassion and help, or that have failed to do so. The first and second parts of Christ’s words about the Final Judgment unambiguously show how essential it is, for the eternal life of every individual, to “stop”, as the Good Samaritan did, at the suffering of one’s neighbour, to have “compassion” for that suffering, and to give some help. In the messianic programme of Christ, which is at the same time the programme of the Kingdom of God, suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love towards neighbour, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a “civilization of love”. In this love the salvific meaning of suffering is completely accomplished and reaches its definitive dimension. Christ’s words about the Final Judgment enable us to understand this in all the simplicity and clarity of the Gospel.

These words about love, about actions of love, acts linked with human suffering, enable us once more to discover, at the basis of all human sufferings, the same redemptive suffering of Christ. Christ said: “You did it to me”. He himself is the one who in each individual experiences love; he himself is the one who receives help, when this is given to every suffering person without exception. He himself is present in this suffering person, since his salvific suffering has been opened once and for all to every human suffering. And all those who suffer have been called once and for all to become sharers “in Christ’s sufferings”(98), just as all have been called to “complete” with their own suffering “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”(99). At one and the same time Christ has taught man to do good by his suffering and to do good to those who suffer. In this double aspect he has completely revealed the meaning of suffering.

Prison is a closed heart

Worst prison

Saint John Paul II

JPIIBlessed  Feast of Pope Saint John Paul II!

Saint John Paul II: “In its present form, inspired above all by Saint Benedict, Western monasticism is the heir of the great number of men and women who, leaving behind life in the world, sought God and dedicated themselves to him, “preferring nothing to the love of Christ”.The monks of today likewise strive to create a harmonious balance between the interior life and work in the evangelical commitment to conversion of life, obedience and stability, and in persevering dedication to meditation on God’s word (lectio divina), the celebration of the Liturgy and prayer.”
–Vita Consecrata, 6

Saint John Paul

Cardinal KarolToday is the first time the Church has the opportunity to pray to/for Saint John Paul II since being canonized in April by Pope Francis. What follows are the texts for Mass and the Divine Office.

Charles Joseph Wotjtyła was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. After his ordination to the priesthood and theological studies in Rome, he returned to his homeland and resumed various pastoral and academic tasks. He became first auxiliary bishop and, in 1964, Archbishop of Krakow and took part in the Second Vatican Council. On 16 October 1978 he was elected pope and took the name John Paul II. His exceptional apostolic zeal, particularly for families, young people and the sick, led him to numerous pastoral visits throughout the world. Among the many fruits which he has left as a heritage to the Church are above all his rich Magisterium and the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church and for the Eastern Churches. In Rome on 2 April 2005, the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), he departed peacefully in the Lord.

Common of Pastors: For a Pope.

Office of readings

Second reading

From the Homily of Saint John Paul II, Pope, for the Inauguration of his Pontificate

(22 October 1978: AAS 70 [1978], 945-947)

Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.

Peter came to Rome! What else but obedience to the inspiration received from the Lord could have guided him and brought him to this city, the heart of the Empire? Perhaps the fisherman of Galilee did not want to come here. Perhaps he would have preferred to stay there, on the shores of Lake of Genesareth, with his boat and his nets. Yet guided by the Lord, obedient to his inspiration, he came here!

According to an ancient tradition, Peter tried to leave Rome during Nero’s persecution. However, the Lord intervened and came to meet him. Peter spoke to him and asked. “Quo vadis, Domine?” — “Where are you going, Lord?” And the Lord answered him at once: “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Peter went back to Rome and stayed here until his crucifixion.

Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us, to gaze on the Lord and to immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.

He who was born of the Virgin Mary, the carpenter’s Son (as he was thought to be), the Son of the living God (as confessed by Peter), came to make us all “a kingdom of priests”.

The Second Vatican Council has reminded us of the mystery of this power and of the fact that Christ’s mission as Priest, Prophet-Teacher and King continues in the Church. Everyone, the whole People of God, shares in this threefold mission. Perhaps in the past the tiara, that triple crown, was placed on the Pope’s head in order to signify by that symbol the Lord’s plan for his Church, namely that all the hierarchical order of Christ’s Church, all “sacred power” exercised in the Church, is nothing other than service, service with a single purpose: to ensure that the whole People of God shares in this threefold mission of Christ and always remains under the power of the Lord; a power that has its source not in the powers of this world, but instead in the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection.

The absolute, and yet sweet and gentle, power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of intellect, will and heart. It does not speak the language of force, but expresses itself in charity and truth.

The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no dusk. Make me a servant: indeed, the servant of your servants.

Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind.

Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “that which is in man”. He alone knows it.

So often today, man does not know that which is in him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you, therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of life eternal.

Responsory

R/. Do not be afraid. The Redeemer of mankind has revealed the power of the Cross and has given his life for us. * Open, open wide the doors for Christ.

V/. In the Church we are called to partake of his power. * Open, open wide the doors for Christ.

Oration

O God, who are rich in mercy and who willed that the Saint John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over your universal Church, grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind. Who lives and reigns.

Blessed Labor Day

“Work is a duty, because our Creator demanded it and because it maintains and develops our humanity. We must work out of regard for others, especially our own families, but also because of the society we belong to and in fact because of the whole of humanity.” Laborem exercens, 16

AND

“The most profound motive for our work is this knowing that we share in creation. Learning the meaning of creation in our daily lives will help us to live holier lives. It will fill the world with the spirit of Christ, the spirit of justice, charity, and peace.” Laborem exercens, 25

St. John Paul II clearly orients our ideas to how we live and work, the sign of a great pastor of souls.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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