Paul Coutinho, SJ has written a book called How Big Is Your God? He asks the question, “Do you know God?” Coutinho thinks that the sum of life is our journey to find our identity in the Divine. He makes his point by telling a story.
With Christmas coming, Grandma was out shopping for gifts for her grandchildren. While she was at the toy store going through her list and carefully selecting gifts, she noticed a small homeless girl outside wistfully looking into the store. Grandma’s heart went out to this little girl. She invited her into the store and asked her to pick out a gift for herself. As they walked out of the store, the little girl held Grandma’s hand and looked into her kind eyes and asked, “Are you God?” Grandma, somewhat embarrassed and somewhat touched, said, “No, my dear, I am not God.” “Then who are you?” continued the little girl. Grandma thought for a moment and said, “I am a child of God.” The little girl, fully satisfied and smiling, said, “I knew there was a connection.”
In today’s Gospel the scholar of the law asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds by telling the very familiar parable of the Good Samaritan. Like Coutinho, Jesus had a way of making a point by telling a story. It is important to know that Samaritans were hated by Jews and avoided at all costs. And yet, as Jesus tells the story, the Samaritan is obviously the good guy. When he asks the scholar, “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” he can’t even bring himself to say the Samaritan. He says, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”
With a good story Jesus makes the idea of neighbor much larger than the scholar was expecting or hoping for. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Neighborliness is not a quality in other people; it is simply their claim on ourselves. We have literally no time to sit and ask ourselves whether so-and-so is our neighbor or not. We must get into action and obey; we must behave like a neighbor to him” (Testament to Freedom).
In so doing, we will find not only a neighbor; we will find God. Do you see the connection?