Left by the Roadside

Today, I read the parable of the Good Samaritan. The thought that immediately came to mind was that there are many wounded people lying by the side of the road in our time and in our economy. We can look as far or as near as we want. We can see the thousands of Mexican farmers lying by the roadside as the result of free trade agreements run amok. We can see the new homeless lying on the side of the roads in Massachusetts.
Unfortunately, the many of rich and the powerful and even some “religious” leaders go to the other side of the road or ignore the pain and suffering of those who are lying by the roadside. In our individualistic society, it has become every person for him/herself. The philosophy often uttered is, “I have got mine you get yours.” Some passersby might even chide the wounded on the roadside, “Lift yourself up by your own bootstraps.” Their vision is so clouded that they did not notice that the victim does not have any boots. Some might throw a few dollars into some collection to put a band aid on a big social wound. Others will try to teach the victim how to fish. Little do they realize that the pond has been fished out by the rich and powerful who structure our society for their own gain.
The Gospel tells us that it is not all about moi. It is about us. We are in solidarity with the victims by the side of the road. Our calling is to work for the common god. Our goal, like Jesus’ goal, is to liberate people, to set them free from misery and suffering. As Paul says in Galatians, this is not a popular Gospel. He reminds the Galatians that being a servant of Christ does not help one win popularity contests.
In spite of last week’s ill-conceived and highly questionable bailout, the today’s economic markets are falling even lower. More and more people in this country and across the globe will be left wounded and hurting by the roadside. They are the victims of unrestrained and unregulated human greed. I believe that greed which causes misery for other people violates the dignity of human life. Greed run amok is an intrinsic evil.
Where does that leave us as disciples of the One who came to serve? We too are to serve. We can take steps to alleviate the suffering of those by the way side. First, we need to realize that everything we have is gift—pure gift from a beneficent Creator. It is meant to be shared by all. Realizing this, we must examine our lives and find out how we can “live more simply so that others may simply live.” Doing this takes the Gospel from preaching to meddling as the saying goes. Helping the wayside victims begins with a rigorous analysis of our bloated lifestyles.
Second, we must make every opportunity to make sure people understand the Gospel as expressed in the social teaching of the church. The dignity of human life, not the profit margin, is the beginning and ending point of the Gospel. We live in solidarity with every other person on earth, even the victims lying wounded by the roadside. We have a responsibility to alleviate relievable human misery.
Third, we have to realize that we, as citizens, are complicit in whatever takes place. We allowed our country to wage a preemptive war for oil, water and hegemony in the Middle East. We allowed our elected representatives to deregulate finance and opened the doors to greed and corruption and golden parachutes for the few. We have allowed our government to spend trillions on war and war making while Americans have inadequate education and health care. These are examples of the Confiteor’s “what we have failed to do.”
Fourth, we can proclaim for the rooftops to all our fellow Americans that we are human beings. We have basic rights just because we are children of the Creator. The Creator and the Begotten One want us to have whatever we need in order to live a decent human life in communion with one another and them. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I have come so that my sheep may have life and so that they may have everything they need.” Food, drink, clothing, shelter, education and medical care are basic inalienable human rights. These rights on founded solidly on the Catholic principles of human dignity and human solidarity.
Fifth, we can advocate and pay our fair share of taxes [to alleviate human misery. Taxes are part of the price of success. [The so-called fair tax is not fair because it is a regressive tax.] If we have been successful, it is because an infrastructure has been in place which helps us to be successful. When we pay taxes we are putting back. None other than Bill Gates, Sr. has expounded on our duty to put back because of what we have been given. In the Gospel context, all politics aside, I have no problem with saying that paying taxes is a patriotic duty. Paying taxes is also a Christian duty. Of course again, we have the responsibility to make sure that the budget priorities for spending our hard earned tax dollars are based on Christian social principles. Allowing programs designed to alleviate human suffering to take a back seat to military expenditures is complicity in the evils of empire. We have allowed 52% percent of our current budget to go to defense.]
Sixth, get involved with one of the many Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Islamic groups working to reduce poverty. Sojourners (www.sojo.net) has a well designed campaign to reduce poverty In America by 50% over the next 10 years and also to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty worldwide.
Finally, get involved, get informed and vote on November 4. We have a responsibility as Christians to become informed and to make prudent judgments about electing public officials. Catholic voters can find guidance from the American bishops in Forming Consciences for faithful Citizenship. See http://www.usccb.org/faithfulcitizenship/FCStatement.pdf.
The nagging question remains. Will we stop and tend to the victims by the roadside? Or will we continue to pass them by and complicit in their misery and suffering. “Whatsoever you have done to or for the least of these, you have done to me.” Jesus Christ, yesterday, today and forever!

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