1. The call to compassion
There is a world of a difference between mere pity and compassion. Pity begins and ends with self. And even though it may make us feel for the suffering, it remains self-enclosed for it does not bear fruit in action. At the most, pity ends with a sign or a mere shrug of the shoulders. Compassion, on the other hand, urges us to move out of ourselves. For it makes us not only feel for but feel with those who suffer. To show compassion, therefore, is to suffer with the wounded and the suffering, to share their pain and agony. While it is true to say that we can never fully enter into another's pain and that we more often than not remain outside as silent spectators to another's agony, compassion helps us in some small way not only to feel with but to feel in the one who suffers. This is how Jesus, the Good Samaritan par excellence, showed compassion. He suffered with and suffered in the persons to whom he ministered. He felt their hunger, He sensed their sorrow, He understood their pain, He sympathised with and befriended sinners, He touched the ostracised. Jesus assumed a back that He might feel the pain of being scourged. Centuries before He was born the prophet Isaiah had stated: "Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing, ours the sorrows he was carrying...; he was being wounded for our rebellions and crushed because of our guilt; the punishment reconciling us fell on him, and we have been healed by his bruises" (Isaiah 53:4-5).
Compassion, does not leave us indifferent or insensitive to another's pain but calls for solidarity with the suffering. Solidarity "is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual because we are all really responsible for all."  At times we can be like the priest and the scribe who, on seeing the wounded man, passed by on the other side. We can be silent spectators afraid to involve ourselves and soil our hands.
We can easily find parallels in contemporary culture. The visual media today bring right into our homes horrifying scenes of war and violence, of hunger and want, of sickness and disease, of natural catastrophes like floods and earthquakes. We run the risk of being lulled into a culture of watching passively, of doing nothing. Instead of being actors, we end up by being mere spectators. Compassion demands that we get out of ourselves as we reach out to others in need. It makes us emerge from the comfortable cocoon of our self-enclosure and reach out in love and service to those who need our help.
The concept of health need not be so narrow as to be restricted to mean mere physical or bodily well being. In a symbolic sense health takes on a much wider significance. There are whole societies and cultures "on the other side of the road" that lie "wounded," waylaid and deprived by the dis-values of consumerism and materialism, stripped of what is best and most beautiful in human culture, because they are devoid of, and at times hostile, if not indifferent, to God. We have been, culturally speaking, so dehumanized as to have lost the sense of God.
And, over the years, we have gone a step further by nurturing non-belief, resulting in religious indifference. Indifference is worse than hostility. The hostile person at least acknowledges the presence of the other while reacting violently to it; the indifferent person, on the other hand, ignores the other and treats him as if he did not exist.
That was the kind of indifference and insensitivity shown by the priest and the Levite who passed by on the other side, leaving the wounded and waylaid traveller unattended. It is alive in today's anti-culture of isolation and triviality.
But our greatest depravity is that we can lose our sense of God. And with the loss of the sense of the Fatherhood of God, it must of necessity follow that we lose also in the process the sense of the brotherhood of man. Even though we may deny or be indifferent to the existence of God, what fills us with hope and optimism is that the God of the Christian is a God Who rises from the dead, a God Who revives and renews, a God Who restores hope as He rises phoenix like from the ashes. It is precisely to such cultures that have become godless or religiously indifferent, that have become dormant and dead, that the Church as a continuation of Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan in time and space, needs to reach out and minister and to offer the Good News. These are the very cultures that silently plead for our active involvement. When the Church, and together with her the Christian faith, enters into the flesh of culture the mystery of the incarnation is relived. The Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. He becomes like unto us in all things but sin. "Without the incarnation there is no salvation: Christ was not born in a void. He took flesh in the womb of Mary; His life was interwoven into the prevalent social and cultural fabric of His time. As the Word of God He spoke in human language, a specific language with a definite cultural heritage. Cultures have been analogically compared to the humanity of Christ. By the mystery of the incarnation, He entered into culture from within purifying it and reorienting it to God Who was to be worshipped in spirit and in truth."  Just as the Good Samaritan entered into the situation of the man lying wounded and half dead and ministered to him, so must the Church enter into these cultures that are wounded and sick and revitalize them by offering them the Gospel of Life.