The message of Father O’Donnell one Sunday morning had hit the spot, as the old Irish priest like to say. There was more than one parishioner squirming in their seat as he explained the true meaning behind ‘loving thy neighbor as thyself’.
He had been at pains to stretch the commonly held view of the term ‘neighbor’… turning the good Samaritan story into one of race, politics, gender, age and social standing, so much so that the person in trouble could have been anyone alive today… as could the person who reaches out to lend a helping hand.
Father O’Donnell returned to his modest villa on the outskirts of San Antonio believing that he had done all he could to explain this simple but most important piece of the gospel pie.
But as we know good reader it’s not what is said that matters, but what is heard.
Mrs Jones always sat on the front row of the Church. On that particular morning she had managed to drag Mr Jones along too and it was he who gave his good wife of 30 years a nudge in the ribs at the mention of loving thy neighbor.
You see, Mrs Jones had been at war with just about every neighbor in their street… for years. It could have been an argument over a fence that was too tall, a hedge that had over grown into the Jones yard, a garden or front lawn that had gone to seed, a political sign posted in a window promoting the ‘other’ party, the noise of other people’s kids playing in the street, the wafting odors of foreign cuisine, the barking of a dog, the dumping of rubbish in the local park, a late night party or two or, anyone who smoked, drank alcohol or cussed in public.
Not a regular Church goer by any means, Mr Jones liked the message so much that he considered coming back next week. On the drive home he turned to Mrs Jones and said, “And how is it you intend to reconcile yourself with any of our neighbors my dear. Shall we be the good Samaritans and reach out…”
But before he could utter another word, Mrs Jones interjected. “Father O’Donnell didn’t mention anyone like the people on our street. Not a soul. Let’s be clear. The message was for other’s who don’t yet know how to love their neighbors. Not us! My conscious is clear on that matter. Now, what shall we have for lunch.”