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Reflection Title: 
Choosing to Ignore
Reflection Content: 

A great cultural critic has said this story, this parable told two thousand years ago, is the most radical thing the ancient Rabbi said. Having heard the story, we can no longer entertain the thought that our neighbours are the ones we have grown accustomed to, the ones who live like we do, the ones we know. We choose them even without knowing it. And, perhaps also without knowing it, we choose not to be a neighbour to those we do not know—the stranger at the gate, on the street, the one suffering, unrecognized, those who are different. Surely their own kind will respond and do what is necessary. Who knows what obligations we may have if we stop and help? They really are not our responsibility. We don’t even know how to respond properly to them. We don’t know their names. If we stop and help, they will want to know our name. Where might that lead? 

Story Title: 
Choosing One’s Neighbour
Story Content: 

And behold, a certain doctor of the law stood up, tempting Him, and saying, “Teacher, by having done what shall I inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “in the law what hath been written? How readest thou?” And he answered and said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” And He said to him, “Thou didst answer rightly; be doing this, and thou shalt live.” But he, wishing to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” And taking it up, Jesus said, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, who both stripped him and laid blows upon him, and went away, leaving him, as it happened, half-dead. Now, by a coincidence, a certain priest was going down on that road. And having seen him, he passed by on the opposite side. “And in like manner also a Levite, having come to be by the place, came and saw him, and passed by on the opposite side. “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came down to him; and having seen him, he was moved with compassion. And he drew near and bound up his wounds, pouring over oil and wine; and he put him upon his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow, after he came forth, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatsoever thou shalt spend besides, on my coming back, I will repay thee.’ Which then of these three seemeth to thee to have proved to be neighbor of the one who fell among the robbers?” And he said, “The one who rendered mercy in dealing with him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go on thy way, and be thou doing in like manner.”

—Luke 10:25–37

Contemporary Story Title: 
The Stranger in a Strange Land
Contemporary Story Content: 

Mark and Louise Zwick founded Casa Juan Diago in Huston in 1980 following their encounter with poverty and political violence in El Salvador. Casa Juan Diago is one of many Catholic Worker houses of hospitality in the world.


“The Houston Catholic Worker also is a beacon for the homeless who may suffer from mental illness, perhaps hearing voices that are not there. With so many people in need coming and going, how does Casa Juan Diego maintain its peace and equilibrium?” The authors point to the freedom of the Gospel as their inspiring compass. Such freedom “is quite different from rugged individualism or doing whatever we want,” they write. “The freedom of the Gospel is not about buying ourselves things nor about building bigger banks to hold our money, nor about arming ourselves to the teeth to protect it.”

Rather, it is the freedom “to do good, to create a world where it is easier for others to be good.” Catholic Worker “personalism” means that “Catholics do not have to wait for orders from Rome to begin washing others’ feet. . . . We are free to love our enemies. We are free to develop alternatives to an economy that takes away the dignity and the meaning of work. We are free to help the stranger in a strange land. . . . We are free to give up all and follow Jesus.”

Truly, those at Casa Juan Diego are able to recognize Christ’s face in their homeless and forgotten visitors. This account of their work engagingly blends personal stories and sharp analysis, culled from the trenches, about the problems underlying immigration. While the storytelling in Mercy without Borders invites quick reading, the ethical and social questions it raises will compel thought long afterward. 

—Mark and Louise Zwick. Mercy without Borders: The Catholic Worker and Immigration. 

Artwork Content: 

Vincent van Gogh viewed the role of the modern artist as Christlike. He had a deep knowledge of biblical scripture and particularly valued the parables of Jesus; he saw parallels between the parables and his own artistic aims of reaching out to a wide community and communicating in a way understood by all. Van Gogh’s upbringing in the household of a Dutch Protestant minister, his subsequent study to enter the ministry, and time spent preaching to the miners in the impoverished Borinage district of Belgium reinforced in him a strong commitment to modeling his life after that of Christ. To van Gogh, this meant providing a message of consolation, of love and compassion and relief from earthly sufferings, in a form that could speak broadly to all people.  This form could be verbal, literary, or visual and, by the time van Gogh had become an artist in 1880, he was convinced that this need not be delivered from within a specifically religious framework.

Vincent van Gogh’s The Good Samaritan deals with a number of levels of representation. It was based on a black and white lithograph by Jules A.A. Laurens of a painting by the Romantic artist and colourist, Eugène Delacroix. Van Gogh’s artistic ideas concerning both style and content were affected by his extensive knowledge of past and contemporary art, including of fellow Post-Impressionists Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard. Indeed, the discussions of the three men concerning religious subjects caused Van Gogh much distress, as he, unlike the other two, did not feel Christ should be represented directly.  Van Gogh preferred instead, as here, to represent Christ’s message rather than episodes from Christ’s life. 

—Dr. Joan Greer, Professor of the History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture at the University of Alberta. 2013. 

Question Title: 
Who is my neighbour?
Question Content: 

A Startling Freedom

Family, race, culture, wealth, nation no longer concretely demarcate the bounds of the neighbor. . . . I am beckoned into a starling freedom to choose whom I will love and where I will love.

—David Cayley, (born 1946)

Just Passing By

Who is your neighbour? Who last stopped to help you without fear, without want of anything in return? A simple gracious helping hand. Did you know that person’s name? Does the person know yours? Perhaps you do not remember. Have you responded to the simple need of another, perhaps a child, a stranger, a victim of some injustice, or a friend in the grip of loneliness and fright? Easier for us to remember the times we passed by, told ourselves that we were in the midst of doing important things and had neither time or space to respond. Our help was not really what was needed. Or was it?

Music Content: 

A New Commandment

“A New Commandment.” Thomas Tallis, The Tallis Scholars Sing Thomas Tallis, The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips, conductor, Gimell 2004. CD 1, track 10.


He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother 

“He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother” Bob Russell and Bobby Scott, The Hollies Greatest Hits, The Hollies, Capitol Records, 1967. Track 7.


He Reached Down

“He Reached Down,” Iris DeMent, Lifeline, Flariella Records 2004. Track 9. 

Image Theme: 
Image Thumbnail: 
Image Summary: 

The Good Samaritan, (After Delacroix), 1890. Vincent van Gogh, 1853–1890. 

Story Audio: 
Contemporary Story Audio: 

U Encounter Online Exhibition

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