“The next day (the Samaritan) took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’” – Luke 10:35
World Day of the Sick is observed each year on February 11th, as believers are encouraged to offer prayers for those suffering from illnesses, along with the caregivers who tend to their needs. This designation was instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1992, compelling many faith organizations rally to provide medicine and food to those in need. As with other designated holy days, this observance brings awareness of a particular spiritual discipline, in the hopes that ongoing habits would form. For, of course, the sick and suffering are in need every day of the year.
A story from Scripture that is often recalled on the World Day of the Sick is the Parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke’s Gospel
. To those of the Christian tradition, and many beyond, this story is a familiar one; a moral that transcends religious circles to conjure a universal truth: we are called to care for one another, especially in times of need.
The tale begins with an exchange between Jesus and a lawyer, who wants to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. To which Jesus responds with the mandate to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
The lawyer then asks a question of great significance: “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus then tells the timeless story of a man who was robbed, stripped, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road. Two men then pass him by on the other side. A third, a Samaritan (a mixed-race peoples deemed impure at the time), “came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity” (10:33). After bandaging his wounds, the Samaritan hauled him on his own animal to an inn, paying for his stay and whatever costs needed to care for the man.
Jesus makes it clear to the lawyer that the neighbor to the injured man was the traveler who showed mercy.
For a long time, I have been drawn to the Good Samaritan for obvious reasons – his courage, his willingness to be interrupted, and his concern for those in need. Too many times in my own life I have “passed by on the other side of the road,” avoiding contact with those in need. My compassion and mercy often come when deemed convenient for me; when space and energy allow.
In reading the story this time around, I was intrigued by the keeper of the inn, who became the longer-term caregiver. He is clearly well-suited for managing a business, but in this case, is asked to go beyond the norm of renting rooms. The Samaritan provided the acute care needed, but then ushered the injured party to someone else, relying on them for the ongoing care.
From this perspective, God takes on the persona of the Good Samaritan, calling upon us, as innkeepers, to shepherd those in need to a place of healing. Every community needs innkeepers, willing and faithful servants, to help ease the burdens of those who ail.
In convocations at Berkeley week, we will be lifting up the sick for God’s blessing and mercy. May we also be called to the ministry of “innkeeping,” ready to provide care for whoever comes to us in need.
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