On Sunday, in every church of our diocese, we will read the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus tells the story of kindness on the Jericho road to answer the question posed by an inquiring lawyer, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ story causes us to reflect deeply on our relationship to the vulnerable and the stranger. He beckons his followers to be kind and generous, even vulnerable, when faced with the need of others.
I cannot imagine a person more vulnerable than someone who is homeless and asleep. We now grapple with the horrible news that four homeless persons have been attacked, two killed as they slept in the city of San Diego. The homeless of our communities are not faceless. They are not nuisances. They are people. They are someone’s son or daughter. They are created and loved by God. They are created in the image of God, like you and me.
It is hard to understand why someone would do something so horrific to another person. We are grateful that the man responsible for these brutal acts has been apprehended and stopped. However, we all do well to recognize our culture’s discomfort with the poor, vulnerable, the substance abuser, the mentally ill or the one who is very different from us. We wish them to disappear and to be somewhere else.
And yet, even as we are struggling to get our heads around these neighbors of ours being senselessly attacked and killed, we hear this morning of another senseless slaughter in Dallas as five police officers were killed and seven others wounded by a sniper. Juxtaposed with killing of the most vulnerable, we are now faced with the killing of those sworn to protect the community. Again, these officers are human beings. They too are someone’s son or daughter. Families have been destroyed.
While we cannot ever fully understand why someone would commit any of these violent acts, we are aware that we live in a fearful age, where the forces of evil seek to divide neighbors. As followers of Jesus, we are to be characterized not by self-interest, but by an abiding concern and empathy for our neighbor, whether homeless or wearing a badge. We are to work for a just society where the homeless find safety and our police officers will be safe as they shepherd our communities.
As night comes upon us, let us pray for those without shelter, that they may have a gentle and safe night. Let us also pray for those who patrol our streets to protect us all. And at dawn, let us take our prayers into action and as Jesus commands the lawyer in the parable of the Good Samaritan, “go and do likewise.”
The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes