The Good Samaritan
DESMOND O’DONNELL OMI
Counsellor: Welcome. You look a little upset.
Client: Upset? Indeed I am.
Counsellor: Can you tell me what you think causes it?
Client: Well, I am marginalized by the entire village and my friends said I need some counselling. So here I am.
Client: You might not understand, but there is great enmity between the Jews and us Samaritans. It’s all about whether we ought to worship on Mount Gerizim or on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. And about how we should interpret the Sacred Book, or deeper still about who is a real Israelite.
Counsellor: It sounds very complicated. Can you help me to understand why this makes you feel so bad?
Client: Well, first of all I’m not a very religious man and all this disagreement about places to worship and how to understand books is well beyond me.
Counsellor: This seems to a serious matter for the religious people in your village? Why had it affected you?
Client: I’ll have to tell you more about our village. Well, you see, most go to the synagogue every Saturday and I go occasionally myself. That nomadic preacher—Jesus, I think they call him—came to the village but they would not receive him. And he seemed to be a good man to me. I think that goodness is goodness even if it comes from Jerusalem Anyway, they chased him out of the village.
Counsellor: But how are you caught up in all this?
Client: Yes, I’m a bit confused about it all. I have thought of moving to Sychar where a woman who gave Jesus a drink convinced the people to listen to him. But not our village. Its too religious. Of course he should not have been speaking to the woman. His religioun forbids to men—especially rabbis—to talk to women in public and especially to Samaritan women, but he seemed to help her in some way. The religious people say she is a bad woman because she married more than once.
Counsellor: What has all this to do with you?
Client: There is a rumour too that this Jesus cured ten lepers, And that only one of them thanked him—one of ours.
Counsellor: Of course you understand that I cannot fix religious divisions or make moral judgements. But perhaps I can help you with your feelings. Tell me about these.
Client: Well, this is how it all started. I was riding my donkey down that very steep road from Jerusalem to Jericho. I stopped to give the donkey a rest and to have a drink. As I sat there, all the passing Samaritans said ‘Shalom’ but the Jews just glanced at me. A priest and a Levite passed too without even looking at me. But I understand; they were probably in a hurry to worship up in Jerusalem. After resting my donkey I continued downwards on my journey.
Client: Just a short distance further down the road I saw a man lying naked just off the roadside. The priest and the Levite must have seen him too. He had obviously been attacked by bandits and stripped of everything. Maybe they were Samaritan bandits who attached him. He must have resisted because he was bleeding, so my first inclination was to pass on. The religious teaching of my childhood spoke about hating strangers and about becoming impure from touching blood. It all came back to me saying, ‘Don’t’…… (long pause). Besides that I had an appointment in Jericho.
Client: I was torn between my head and my heart. No…. (long pause) it was even deeper than my heart; it was in the pit of my stomach that I felt the pain for the unfortunate man. I knew that the priest and the Levite passed the man for religious reasons. Their religion forbids them also to touch blood or corpses. And like myself they were not sure if he was a Samaritan or a Jew. But I could not walk away; my deepest feeling would not let me…. (long pause)….I somehow felt the man’s pain inside myself. There was a voice inside me.
Counsellor: What sort of a feeling was it?
Client: Well, first of all I felt fear that the bandits wouldcome back to get me also. But I was really churned up between what my traditions told me and my feeling of compassion for the injured man. Anyway I poured some healing oil on his wounds, tore some old clothing from my bag into strips, and I bandaged him to stop the bleeding.
Counsellor: I suppose you just hoped that he would survive.
Client: No, I lifted him on my donkey and brought him to the inn where I left him until the following day. You remember I had that appointment. The innkeeper charged two days’ wages but it made me very happy to see the improvement.
Counsellor: Very happy?
Client: Yes, but then the innkeeper told the villagers and they now reject me because the injured man worships in Jerusalem.
Counsellor: Are you sorry that you did all this? Do you regret it?
Client: Not really, but I feel the pain of rejection by some friends.
Counsellor: Any other feeling?
Client: I am a little sad for these friends who cannot feel the way I felt about someone, anyone in trouble.
Counsellor: Any deeper feelings?
Client: Yes. After talking to you there’s a growing feeling good about myself. I think I really moved out of a prison of prejudice. I also escaped from being controlled by negative feelings of discomfort when my better, deeper feelings tell me to show love to anyone in need. It’s a feeling of freedom. Yes, freedom to love.
Counsellor: A religious feeling?
Client: Not really, just a human feeling., unless being religious means helping your enemies.
Counsellor: If you need another appointment, please ring me.
Client: Thank you.
Desmond O’Donnell is an Oblate priest and a registered psychologist in Dublin. He worked for twenty-eight years in Australia.