Nguyen Trung Tay, SVD
Compassion Is All We Need

The story of the Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke is a striking story (Luke 10:29-37). According to the text, after the robbers left the criminal scene, first a priest and later a Levite happened to be going down on the road. Both saw their fellow man lying half-dead, half-alive. Both chose to ignore the victim and continued with their journeys. Later, a person of the hostile race to the robbed and beaten Jewish man also came. Having seen the man in his conditions, the Samaritan “was moved with compassion” (Luke 10:33). He then decided to set aside the purpose of his trip to Jericho. A human life at the stake was the only concern that the Samaritan had in his mind at this moment.

What was the main factor that caused the Samaritan to decide to help the poor Jew on the road to Jericho? According to the text, it was compassion that set the Samaritan traveler apart from the priest and the Levite. While the latter was full of it, the former ones lack compassion. It was due to compassion, a human life was spared. Compassion enabled the Samaritan man to go beyond the barriers and the hostile attitudes between the two races: the Samaritans and the Jews (2 Kgs 17:24-33, Luke 9:52-56, John 4:9).

Lives of those leaders who are smart and intellectual but lacking in compassion have shown that some of these people have potentiality to create tremendous damages to the world. Hitler, for example, was a smart person. Unfortunately, how many human lives had he and his followers destroyed before the World War II was ended? The numbers were not thousands but millions. The attacks in September 11 are another example. Those who planned to destroy human lives in the four hijacked planes, the World Trade Towers in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington D.C., are very clever and yet they don’t have compassionate hearts. On the other hand, I discover that our broken world has been healed and comforted by compassionate people. Let us look at Mother Theresa, an ordinary woman, whose heart was filled with compassion. How many tears on human faces did she dry? How many human lives have her followers continued to save and to care for in our hungry world? Between intellect and compassion, I therefore favor the former. Saying so does not mean that I deny human intellectual. However, living in our today-trouble-world, I would like to see more human beings with compassionate hearts, for I believe that compassion is all we need.

The story of the Samaritan whose heart was filled with compassion still happens in our contemporary world. In our daily lives, we still encounter one of our brothers or sisters who lies on a road half-dead, half-alive waiting for our help. God grants us freewill to choose. It is up to us to choose to be either the Jewish leaders, the priest and the Levite, or the Samaritan traveler.