Sunday, July 10, 2022

Between Profiles & Persons

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Readings: Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Psalm 68 (69): 14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36-37; Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 10:25-37

Picture: Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

My dear friends, what is the difference between a profile and a person? Many of us use profiles to interact with others on social media. But we also know how dangerous it is to confuse an online profile with the actual person. Haven’t we all heard of love scams that rob victims of both their money and dignity? Also, beyond social media, haven’t we read about the injustice caused in some countries, by so-called racial profiling? When police target people simply for the colour of their skin, without any regard for the actual person.

This distinction between profile and person is what lies at the heart of our gospel reading today. When that cheeky lawyer asks Jesus, who is my neighbour?, he is asking for a profile of the kind of person he should love. In his mind, fellow Jews clearly fit the bill, but foreigners do not. What is not so clear is whether a Samaritan qualifies as a neighbour. As you know, although not exactly foreigners, Samaritans were still considered outsiders. But Jesus refuses to give the lawyer what he wants. Instead of providing a profile, the Lord tells a story, ending with a command: Go, and do the same yourself. Go and act like that Samaritan who, unlike the priest and the levite, chose to relate to the victim as a person, instead of a profile. Allowing himself to see the needy one’s plight, and be moved to show mercy…

I have to confess that I find this call to treat others as persons very challenging. Although I know, theoretically, that we are all called to love everyone equally, in practice, given the limited time and energy available to me, I have to choose those to whom I offer more care and concern. And how do I choose, except by using profiles? By favouring my family and friends, for example, or my community, or class… And I also often apply profiles of some kind even without me realising it. Such as when I relate to people according to society’s expectations of them, regardless of their actual situation? Or when I treat others according to what people may say (or gossip) about them, instead of relying on my own personal experience?

How then to obey the Lord’s command? How to reconcile the call to treat people as persons with the different profiles that I adopt? Perhaps I need to learn from the early Fathers of the Church, who heard the parable not first as an obligation to fulfil, but as a gift to receive. For who is that Samaritan, if not Jesus, who sees me as a person, and takes pity on me? Saving me from my sins, by laying down his life on the Cross. Listening to the parable in this way, allows me to experience what we believe happens at every Mass… The living Word of God no longer feels far away, but draws very near. Giving us a new vision of reality. Remaining in our mouths and hearts for our closer observance. For Christ is not just the image of the unseen God. He is also the first to be born from the dead. Able to free me from all the dead actions and interactions, the spiritual scams, to which I fall prey all too often.

Sisters and brothers, in Christ, God chooses to treat each and all of us as living persons rather than dead profiles. How shall we help one another to do the same for others today?

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