We were at Milwaukee’s Bastille Days celebration Saturday night sitting with African American strangers who asked us to join them, when the news was relayed by cell phone; George Zimmerman was acquitted. The mood was that of unbelief. The young man sitting with us predicted violence all over the country.
I didn’t look forward to attending Mass the next day even though it was going to be held at a county park.
First of all, it was the morning after the Trayvon Martin decision. The seventeen year old was declared guilty by a Florida Jury of his own murder. I was sure that the pastor would ignore the event.
Secondly, the Gospel for the day was the Good Samaritan story. The Milwaukee Catholic Herald (July 11, 2013, p. 18) had a recent article by a former Seminary Professor distorting the Gospel and Jewish understanding of the commandment to ‘love God and your neighbor.’ He stated, “Jesus, in featuring the compassionate Samaritan, dared to challenge the Lawyer’s and Israel’s erroneous understanding of one’s duties toward a neighbor.”
This is a common misinterpretation and therefore what I expected to hear on Sunday.
The pastor did mention the Trayvon Martin decision, and at the time of the Prayers of the Faithful, the congregation’s lamentations were moving. The Pastor’s treatment of the Good Samaritan story skipped the usual; “Jesus pronounced a ‘new law’ that even the ‘stranger’ is our neighbor.”
Ironically the National Conference of Catholic Bishops advocates for immigration reform by reference to the Jewish Bible mandate to love God and your neighbor – the stranger. (Strangers No Longer Together On a Journey Of Hope, U.S.C.C.B. 1-22-2003) The use of the Good Samaritan story as a story of Christian exceptionalism is a step in the wrong direction.
Let’s look at the Good Samaritan story in reference to Trayvon Martin. What about civil rights? They are now wounded and dying on the street. Who will notice and advocate for a cure and pay the cost of civil health? It won’t be easy; for inspiration just remember Treyvon Martin.
Credits for the picture belong to Methodist Pastor Bill Mefford, Washington, D.C.