Today, we continue with the second reflection Fr. Aarón Gutiérrez, CM, Assistant General is giving on ” Fratelli Tutti”. This reflection is an invitation to us Christians and Vincentians to contribute to the globalization of charity, a term which is not at all strange to us. We look forward to your comments.

2. Towards a Samaritan humanity.

The presentation that the first chapter makes of reality is not without its problems. A brief tour of the parable of the Good Samaritan acknowledges this and demands reflection and universal conversion: “The mercy of each person extends to his neighbor, but the mercy of the Lord reaches all the living” (Sir 18:13). From compassion and mercy to those closest to oneself (family members, fellow nationals, co-religionists and others), it reaches out to the whole of humanity: “This context helps us to understand the value of the Parable of the Good Samaritan: Love does not care if the wounded person is from here or from there. Because it is ‘love that breaks the chains that isolate and separate us by building bridges; it is love that allows us to build a great family where we can all feel at home. … Love that knows compassion and dignity.’” (FT 62) Without these conditions, as always, “the poor are the most affected,” a theme that sensitively touches the Vincentian charism. The poor, the poor continue to be “burden and pain” for those who have received the gift of serving them. The view of Pope Francis reminds us of the view of Vincent de Paul, the saint of mercy, the father and protector of the poor.

It is not a short and superficial viewpoint stuck in the appearances of good. With simplicity the nerve center of our society can be discovered: “We have grown in many aspects,” says the pope, “although we are illiterate in accompanying, caring for, and supporting the most fragile and weak in our developed societies. We get used to looking to one side, to moving sideways, to ignoring situations until they hit us directly.”

The pope’s gaze is such that it invites a new discernment and making new decisions. The review of the encounter of the Good Samaritan with the abandoned and wounded person on the road is the route to a new encounter with Jesus Christ. Those discarded in the world, are growing in number day by day: by wars, by economic development, and otherwise. Among these discarded, “there is the issue of that human being lying there that makes us question ourselves.” The story of the Good Samaritan “picks up a centuries-old background” which is constantly repeated not only in social and political laziness, but also in indifference and overlooking the problems of others. Service to the poor is historical and circumstantial, just as the charism is also historical. The Good Samaritan responded according to the needs of the abandoned and injured. Likewise, Vincent knew how to respond at the time to the question that the encyclical sharply repeats to us: And who is my neighbor? Whom do I have to approach today? What should we answer today?

The protagonists in the parable of the Good Samaritan have a current import: the thieves or robbers, which do not say who they were but to whom they do not grant any greater importance. The abandoned and wounded… A priest… a Levite… the Samaritan… The pope’s reading of the parable of the Good Samaritan requires that all, either personally or in community, examine themselves and identify with one of the characters in the parable, since, “as we are all very focused on our own needs, seeing someone suffering bothers us, disturbs us, because we do not want to waste our time because of other people’s problems. These are symptoms of a sick society, because it seeks to build itself while its back is turned away from pain.” From a fearless comparison, without defense mechanisms, a true transformation in spirit is expected.

Two types of people are exposed in the parable: “Those who take charge of the pain and those who pass by; those that bend down in recognizing the fallen person and those who avert their gaze and walk away faster.” The charism, the urgency to “follow Jesus Christ, the evangelizer of the poor,” changed the path in Vincent’s life. Sometime in his life had to ask himself: in which character in the parable do I see myself reflected? At some point we have to ask ourselves, which of these characters am I being at this moment? The pope says: “It is the moment of truth: Will we bend down to touch and heal the wounds of others? Will we bend over to carry each other on our shoulders?” Meanwhile, he drops in a worrying paradox: “Sometimes, those who say they don’t believe can live God’s will better than believers.”

The deepest dream is that we make our own the attitude of the Samaritan … who approaches and leaves the comfortable environment of his world; this is the other parameter of comparison that we have to take into account. Everything in “This parable is an illuminating icon, capable of highlighting the basic choice we need to make to rebuild this world that is hurting us. In the face of so much pain, in the face of so much injury, the only way out of it is to be like the Good Samaritan. Any other option ends either next to the robbers or next to those who pass by, without pitying the pain of the wounded man on the way. The parable shows us with what initiatives a community can be rebuilt from men and women who make the fragility of others their own, who do not allow a society of exclusion to emerge, but rather become neighbors and raise up and rehabilitate the fallen, so that the good may be common.” (FT 67) The lawyer wanted to escape Jesus’ question, but in the end, he had to acknowledge his limitation and face the truth. Only then does Jesus tell him “go and do the same yourself.” Vincent concretized this invitation by creating concrete ways, “works…,” “with a vision appropriate to its time” to answer another great question, how can I, or can we in my community, “do the same?” The deepest challenge of the encyclical is exactly here: what are we going to do in the face of the transformation that is expected as a worthy reception of this encyclical?

3. From immediate charity to procedural charity

Pope Francis assures us that “Every day we are offered a new opportunity, a new stage” to “start over” in love. It is necessary to return “love” to its deepest meaning. It is a “value” which, like other values, has been emptied of its true meaning, and led to inadequate understandings. Love is a unique value that not everyone appreciates equally, and that dehumanizes: “The spiritual height of a human life is marked by love. However, there are believers who think that their greatness is in the imposition of their ideologies on the others, or in the violent defense of the truth, or in great demonstrations of strength.”

Love is the great value preached by the Gospel, but it cannot be confused with “being a do-gooder,” because “the fact of believing in God and worshiping him does not guarantee living as God pleases. A person of faith may not be faithful to everything that that same faith demands of him, and yet he may feel close to God and believe himself to be more dignified than others.” Only from love do we fully understand the meaning of the word neighbor. The pope is clear about this: “I am not saying that I have ‘neighbors’ whom I must help, but rather that I feel called to become a neighbor of others.” Becoming a neighbor implies becoming a “servant,” and it is the horizon of conversion that is asked of us today: “dedication to service was the great satisfaction (of the Good Samaritan) facing his God and his life, and therefore, a duty. We all have responsibility for the wounded, that is the people themselves and all the peoples of the earth. Let us take care of the fragility of each man, each woman, each child, and each elderly person, with that solidarity and attentive attitude, the Good Samaritan’s attitude of nearness.”

Obviously, all this supposes specific and immediate actions, or if you will, assistance, when there are no alternatives. These are situations that somehow always arise. But, it is increasingly urgent and necessary to create and develop processes aimed at the transformation of the world that the Gospel proposes. In previous chapters the pope warned us that reality leads us to a “new development of spirituality and theology,” where “faith, with the humanism it contains, must keep alive a critical sense in the face of these tendencies, and help to react quickly when they start to enter our consciousness. For this reason, it is important that catechesis and preaching include more directly and clearly the social meaning of existence, the fraternal dimension of spirituality, the conviction about the inalienable dignity of each person and the motivations to love and welcome everyone.”

Theology and spirituality are expected to raise the response potential that love has, restructuring the potential of love not only at the personal level, but also in its community dimension. God’s love puts us in tension toward others. It increases the vocation to “form a community made up of brothers and sisters who welcome and care for each other.” It is a love that calls for “social friendship.” “Love and friendship” both with strong socio-economic and political impact. Destined to overcome racism, exclusion and discrimination by creating societies that are open and fully inclusive. These, when well interpreted, do not mean defending or promoting “an authoritarian and abstract universalism, drawn up or planned by someone and presented as a supposed dream in order to homogenize, dominate, and plunder.”

The social love being talked about is called to transcend the world of “associates,” defenders of their own interests. It means reaction against that “radical individualism (which) is the most difficult virus to defeat. It cheats. It makes us believe that everything consists in giving free rein to our own ambitions, as if by accumulating individual ambitions and securities we could construct the common good.” The common good cannot forget the obligation to promote a more exact content of the concepts of equality, freedom, and fraternity, of the dignity of people, to seek respect for the human rights of all, and to establish them morally: “We cannot stop saying that the desire and the search for the good of others and of all humanity also implies seeking a maturation of people and societies in the different moral values that lead to an integral human development. In the New Testament a fruit of the Holy Spirit is mentioned (see Ga 5:22), expressed with the Greek word agathōsúnē [goodness]. It indicates the attachment to the good, the search for the good.” The common good is the criterion to strengthen the concepts of solidarity, which “expresses itself concretely in service, which can assume very different forms of taking care of others”; and of course, the concept of service means, to a large extent, taking take care of the fragile. Serving means caring for the fragile in our families, our society, our people. Charity requires creating processes that facilitate obtaining this “common good” that refers to all humans, and all the universe. The real challenge is to expand the sense of effectiveness in charity.

Fr. Aaron Gutierrez, CM
Assistant General