Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau has observed that persons have become accustomed to looking the other way, passing by, ignoring situations until they are affected directly.
“Someone is assaulted on our streets, and many hurry off as if they did not notice. People hit someone with their car and then flee the scene. Their only desire is to avoid problems; it does not matter that, through their fault, another person could die. These are signs of an approach to life that is spreading in subtle ways,” the Bishop said in his talk ‘A Stranger on the Road’.
Bishop Malzaire was among the speakers who contributed to three nights of talks on Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli tutti in observance of the Diocese of St John’s-Basseterre’s golden jubilee celebration January 13–15. The other speakers were Archbishop Kenneth Richards of Kingston, Jamaica, and Archbishop Emeritus Donald Reece of Kingston.
Bishop Malzaire also observed that the sight of a person who is suffering disturbs all. “It makes us uneasy since we have no time to waste on other people’s problems. These are symptoms of an unhealthy society. A society that seeks prosperity but turns its back on suffering,” he said.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan he said, summons all to rediscover their vocation as citizens of nations and of the world. The Good Samaritan shows that the existence of each individual is deeply tied to that of others.
According to Bishop Malzaire, the parable presents the basic decision one needs to make in order to rebuild a wounded world. It shows how a community can be rebuilt by people who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion, and act instead as neighbours, lifting up the fallen for the sake of the common good.
“The parable speaks to us of an essential and often forgotten aspect of our common humanity: we were created for a fulfilment that can only be found in love. We cannot be indifferent to suffering; we cannot allow anyone to go through life as an outcast.”
He continued, “Instead, we should feel indignant, challenged to emerge from our comfortable isolation and to be changed by our contact with human suffering. That is the meaning of dignity.”
Each day, persons are faced with the decision on whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders. “All of us have in ourselves something of the wounded man, the robber, the passers-by, and the Good Samaritan,” Bishop Malzaire said.
He commented on how the various characters in the story change once confronted by the painful sight of the poor man on the roadside. The distinctions between Judean and Samaritan, priest, and merchant, “fade into insignificance”.
“Now there are only two kinds of people: those who care for someone who is hurting and those who pass by. Here, all our distinctions, labels and masks fall away: it is the moment of truth.”
To this end, he asserted that the question is: will we bend down to touch and heal the wounds of others?
He ended his talk reminding all that it is therefore important that our catechesis and preaching speak directly and clearly about the social meaning of our existence, the fraternal dimension of spirituality, our conviction of the dignity of each person, and our reasons for loving and accepting all our brothers and sisters.
“This is our Christian charge,” he said.