Perhaps the parable that is most attuned to the social imperatives of our Christian faith is the story of the Good Samaritan. Somebody gets hurt, most likely by an oppressor or an oppressive situation, we take good care of him. Nurse him to health until he goes back to normal life. Charity, that is! End of story, end of our duty.  However we are also aware that reality has many nuances, many shades and is never ever simple. Unlike a game of chess where only two colours are involved - black and white, good and bad – real life is far more colourful, filled with possibilities, and very bloody. So taking our cue from here, what if the Good Samaritan arrived earlier and witnessed the act of oppression right before his very eyes? He saw the victim struggling helplessly to defend himself from the beatings of his oppressors - was already all covered with blood but still alive and still parrying off the punches and poundings of the aggressors.   

Now, to the Good Samaritan, what options are before him as a man of faith and respond to his obligation to do what is right and moral?   Two possibilities: first, hide himself and wait till the oppressor is finished with his “business” and walks away, then go to the victim to save what is left of him; or second, risk himself by intervening to stop the oppression, thereby also exposing himself to the wrath of the oppressor.  Most likely, many of us, if given the choice, would choose the obligation that appears to be less demanding, safe and easy – charity. I’ll just shut up and hide myself then take care of the victim if ever there is still something left of him to be taken cared of. 

Just like someone, a janitor or a housekeeper for that matter, who cleans after other people’s mess.  One who does not question social injustice or the root causes of poverty or political repression. He will just do the “aftercare,” clean up the resulting social mess – take care of the victims. Unfortunately, some consider this attitude as “socius criminis”  or becoming an accessory to the crime. By not doing anything to save a person from obvious harm resulting from the aggression of another, one becomes guilty also of the crime committed.  

It also helps perpetuate injustice. Many will also choose the path less travelled by, the path of justice, and confront the oppression as well as the oppressor, thereby risking their lives and limbs to the violence of the latter. Just like the way Jesus did -  offering himself as supreme sacrifice to save us from the tyranny and destructiveness of sin. Those who died for the sake of justice and human rights certainly did have other options, too. They could have gone abroad and become oblivious to the immense suffering of their fellow brothers and sisters back home. But, instead they decided to follow the example of Jesus – they served the people (to death)! My dear brothers and sisters, to whichever face of being the Good Samaritan we choose, may Jesus be with us! 

Gilbert Pilayre
Shared Homily Building Peace Based on Justice: A Mass Dedicated to the Victims of Human Rights Violations in the PhilippinesPfarre Breitenfeld, Florianigasse 70, 1080, Vienna, Austria16, March , 2007