Maryknoll Affiliate Hugh Menton remembers a visit to Maryknoll Lay Missioners in El Salvador and reflects on what it means to love God and love one's neighbor.
The passage from Luke’s Gospel has always communicated to me the essential message of our Christian faith—love God and love my neighbor.
The story of the Good Samaritan ends quite simply, “Go and do likewise.” But what is doing “likewise,” particularly if I find myself living more like the Jewish scholar, the priest or the Levite than the Samaritan who shows mercy traveling that notorious road to Jericho?
For me as a Maryknoll Affiliate, I encounter the “robber’s victim” through connections with Maryknoll Lay Missioners, Maryknoll Sisters and Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in their communities and countries of service.
My brief immersion trip with the Maryknoll Lay Missioners in El Salvador – seeing Ann Greig’s work with the women to provide affordable soy milk resources in a poor San Salvador neighborhood where the infant/child mortality rate is huge; Larry Parr’s community/study center work with youth in a gang-controlled area; Peg Vámosy’s work with organic farmers; or Rick Dixon’s work with children and families using a wheelbarrow library to build relationship, community and literacy – took me from the “opposite side” of the road to doing “likewise.”
I took away the lay missioners’ and Maryknoll approach of being present to the communities they were joining, where they offer their gifts to the people, as the Samaritan bandaged, transported and housed the robbers’ victim.
I brought this approach back to my life in Southern California. In order to do “likewise” I found my presence was needed. Also, missioners’ work flows from the needs of the community one serves and is shaped by that community. Like the robber’s victim’s needs which were visible to the Samaritan, missioners are guided by observation and interaction. I found the same approaches of “doing likewise” with the homeless and poor of the local U.S. communities have served.
There is one aspect of relationship that does not unfold in the story of the Good Samaritan. A relationship between the Samaritan and the robber’s victim is missing from the story. It is only implied with the Samaritan’s suggestion of a return and left up to the imagination of our own journeys. In Maryknoll missioners’ lives in their communities of service, it is clear the relationships that develop between missioners and those served is one of neighbors. Both the missioners and communities know the answer to the scholar’s question, “And who is my neighbor?”
The missioners’ examples lead me to the related wisdom from today’s Hebrew text “…this command that I enjoin on you today is not too…remote for you…Nor is it across the sea.” Our neighbors, suffering like the robber’s victim, are right before us in our sight, calling for mercy and relationship, as are we.
Picture: Maryknoll Lay Missioner Ann Greig (right) fills empty containers with soy milk produced by a cooperative for families in need in San Salvador, El Salvador.