From The Waiting Father: Sermons on the Parables of Jesus, by Helmut Thielicke, translated by John W. Doberstein (Harper & Row, ©1957)


The Parable of the Good Samaritan


And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live."

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half-dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

— LUKE 10:25-37

Here is a man who wants to argue with Jesus. At some time all of us have discussed questions of faith with others. When a companion, an associate learns that we are among those who have been with Jesus of Nazareth the time comes when he will speak to us about it, whether it be somewhat jokingly or with a serious question. He may say to us, "Now take this business of miracles, surely there's something fishy about that." Or he may say, "You can't prove even to me that there is a God and a life after death."


I have observed that the people who speak this way and ask such questions can be divided into two classes.


Those in the first group are prompted by a real interest and perhaps even a real intellectual concern. When they launch an attack upon faith, when they deny and dispute, they often want nothing more earnestly than to be proved wrong and have their obstacles to faith removed.


The others like to engage in endless arguments, because they know that this is the best way to keep the Lord Christ at arm's length. Possibly they may also think that this is a way of putting him to silence and at the same time punishing his church with contempt. But they never quite bring it off. For at some point or other they have already been touched by Jesus. They have been "winged." And now they argue and talk with the witnesses of this Christ in order to prove to them, and above all to themselves, that it is nonsense to believe in him or that the endless procession of pros and cons in itself shows that this gets them nowhere and therefore it is best not to get mixed up with him. Thus they try to gloss over the wound in their conscience and produce a moral alibi for their unbelief.


I believe that it is to this latter group that the lawyer in our text belongs: "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"


It is not without significance that the text says he wanted to put the Lord "to the test." So he was probably not very much in earnest about it after all. He may have been trying to get Jesus out on slippery ice. Perhaps he was a spy of the Jewish high consistory. Perhaps he was moved by the dangerous urge to sharpen his wits with some flashy debate and prove to all the bystanders that he was brilliant.


Certainly Jesus had made an impression upon him. The man surely must have seen how at the touch of his hands people were healed, physically and spiritually. He had heard or had observed that an ineffable love radiated from him, a love that quite obviously attracted from their usual haunts the very people whom nobody else cared for: people with loathsome, repulsive diseases, sinners who cowered before the contempt of society, the dejected and dismayed who normally concealed their misery from the eyes of others.


All these people flocked about Jesus, and into their muddled, bungled lives there came a breath that revived and re-created them. Then, too, this Jesus of Nazareth spoke of his heavenly Father as if he were in intimate contact with him, as if each day he came afresh from the Father's presence. This man could grip and stir a person with his eyes and with his words. In any case, one could not act as if he were not there.


Then the inner voice, the conscience, played a trick upon this lawyer. If this man should be right, said the inner voice, then a man could not remain as he was. Then he could not go on being merely the blase theologian, who searched the Scriptures but was no longer moved by the misery of the poor. Then he could no longer be the proud intellectual, who practiced his individualism and had no time for the plebs, the masses, the boring boneheads with their thousand and one uninteresting daily needs and silly sentimentalities. Nor could he go on being the "rich young ruler," who lived his cultured, sheltered life and forgot that not two hundred yards from his villa there were dirty, overcrowded huts and tenements. Nor could he be the priest, who had his servant girl polish up the prie-dieu every day for his devotions but did not know her name or that she had a sick mother. He simply could not go on being such a person-if this Nazarene was right.


Yes; what can a man do, reflects this lawyer, not without a certain misgiving and nervousness, what can a man do to get this termite which has crept into one's conscience out again as painlessly as possible?


Quite simply, he says to himself : Everything that has to do with the background and the meaning of life, with God and eternal life, with the problem of conscience and love of one's neighbor-none of this can be proved. Actually, the only things in life that can be proved are the trite things, such as two times two equals four. But if it is impossible to prove it, he reasons further, then there is no need to worry about it and vex one's conscience over it.


In short, the best thing to do is to challenge this Jesus to a debate; this will prove soon enough that he cannot prove anything. After all, I am well trained in philosophy and I have a hundred Bible passages which can be turned and twisted and used to good advantage. And if he tries to catch me and finish me off with the strength of his speech and his ideas, I know all the proper dialectical maneuvers. Besides, I know a few rhetorical tricks and I'll be able to parry anything he has. Then when the whole thing has fizzled out-oh, this lawyer is an old hand at debating!-one will at least have regained one's peace of conscience and everything can be as it was before.


So thinks the lawyer, and as the first move in the game he asks the question: "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"


There can be no doubt that the question is well chosen; for, after all, it deals with the very meaning and goal of our life. From times immemorial philosophers have racked their brains over this question and the wreckage of thousands of philosophies lies strewn along the road of this problem. So this Nazarene will not be the first to think he has something final to say and that he can put an end to this comedy of errors. It would really be absurd if one did not immediately have a counterargument at hand in case the opponent should make the next move with the assertion: "I, Jesus of Nazareth, am the meaning of your life."


Perhaps the lawyer had even thought of the next possible move. If Jesus were to answer, "You inherit eternal life through faith," he would counter by asking, "Why, then, has God commanded the many sacrifices?" And if Jesus were to reply, "Perform your due obedience and bring the sacrifices which are commanded," then he would say, "Oh, no! Now am I supposed to bring sacrifices? How strange! Just a minute ago you were talking about faith!"


So the lawyer perhaps had worked out the whole maneuver at home in the sandbox. This Nazarene would not get him. It would be interesting to see what the next hour would bring forth. Theological fencing is really for epicures. He is itching to slip like an eel from his grasp if this Jesus should reach out for his soul. He has rubbed his inner man, as it were, with soap. Countless people do this. Any pastor can tell you about these slippery souls.


So he stands there before Jesus with his question. What is it like suddenly to be facing Jesus and having him look into your eyes?


The first thing the lawyer learned, to his discomfiture, was that his opponent was not going to be caught in his carefully prepared net. He did not reply to his question at all but asked him another in return: "What is written in the law?"


I believe that the lawyer must have been taken aback to be interrogated like a schoolboy and have Jesus intimate that he was asking a question the answer to which he should have known long ago. After all, anybody who has grown up among the people of God knows the answer to this fundamental question of life, how one gains eternal life! It does make him a bit ridiculous that Jesus should not respond at all to his little challenge, that he makes no move whatsoever that would give him an opening and allow him to enter a race down the broad avenue of the intellect, but rather reminds him of the Sunday-school sessions of his childhood. And with some embarrassment he proceeds to answer like a schoolboy: "It is written: `You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.' "


As he was reciting his Bible verse he may well have had a strange experience. He knew this passage backwards and forwards, at least as well as you and I know a few Bible passages or even a wall motto that we see every day. But curiously enough, we may have heard or read or even recited such a passage a hundred times-let us say, "Faith, hope, love," or "The Lord is my shepherd"-until the time comes when, suddenly, these lifeless words take on something like a soul; they begin to move and come straight at us. The wall motto suddenly acquires eyes and gazes at us. It may happen at the deathbed of a beloved person, so that I am compelled to face the question of how we can ever go on living. It may happen, perhaps, when to a refugee, tossed hither and yon among strange people, looked down upon, dependent upon begging and charity, whereas back home people took their hats off when he went by. Perhaps it happened in an air-raid shelter, when the next second might have pitched us into death or bitter poverty. All of a sudden that long-familiar saying, which lay, covered with dust, in the lumber room of life, underwent a strange transformation. It began to speak, to judge, to comfort. Those words, "Take no thought for your life"-"The Lord is my shepherd"-"O thou of little faith," enveloped us like a great, protecting, motherly cloak and led us, as by a higher hand, through fire and foreign places, giving us solid ground to stand on in the midst of a sea of fear.


So it may have been with this lawyer as he stood there before the eyes of Jesus, reciting this ancient, familiar saying about loving God and one's neighbor-no, not reciting it but rather, now that he was in the presence of the Lord, as each word passed by, slowly passed by, stopped, gazed at him-and then the same thing happened with the next word: an uncanny, haunting parade, an encirclement of words, with which hitherto he had more or less played but which now formed a ring about him and took his breath away.


How easy it was before to say, "God is a God of love." How easily we let such a sentence pass over our lips! It even sounds a bit trite. But just let Jesus stand in front of us and look at us when we say the words and at once this pious little saying becomes an accusation. Then all of a sudden we hear it spoken by the beggar we shooed from the door yesterday; the servant girl we dismissed, perhaps because she was going to have a baby; the neighbor, whose name has recently been dragged through the newspapers because of some disgraceful affair, whom we let know that we always walk e strait and narrow path. Suddenly we hear them all speaking it, because this saying has something to do with all of them, not only with the God who dwells above the clouds. For in them the eyes of the Lord himself are gazing at us.


And so it was with the lawyer when he had recited his piece about this so-called religion of love and Jesus said to him, "Do this and you will live," thereby indicating that this was the answer to all his questions.


What the lawyer wanted was to engage in a philosophical discussion of love or eternal life. One could traverse the entire history of thought. Then as now, one could pursue some highly interesting ideas and find out what Plato, what the Old Testament, what Thomas Aquinas and Goethe said about the subject. One could then go quietly to bed, having polished off a few intellectual hors d'oeuvres. But Jesus says, "Don't start by thinking about love, but practice it." Many things can be known only by doing and practicing them.


To be sure, this is no easy matter. It is easier to discuss a thing than to practice it. Being a Bible scholar, being pious and going to church on Sunday, listening to and delivering lectures on love-and perhaps even speculating on whether God's love will not ultimately evacuate hell itself and save everybody-this too is very much easier than to sacrifice an hour today for some poor, helpless creature.


The lawyer realizes this and perhaps is painfully reminded that this very morning he hated and envied an associate because the man was a little more successful than he. The lawyer is badly disappointed that his theological discussion, his educational conversation, seems suddenly to be coming to an end. It is really very awkward and annoying that spiritual things should be so simple, that they should have to do with ridiculous everyday life, with neighbors, friends, peddlers, or any insignificant, colorless employee who happens to come along. He inquired about the meaning of life; he presented a sublime subject for discussion-and here he is, sent to the servants' quarters! It's enough to make one weep, or laugh. So one might as well leave. One can't talk to this man from Nazareth. He is very unpleasant to deal with. He is what one might call an unintellectual man; he immediately starts talking about practical things. But at the last moment there occurs to the lawyer an idea of how he might still force Jesus to further discussion and keep away from practice. Perhaps he need not let himself be sent to the servants' quarters after all, but can keep his dignity and remain in the cultivated, intellectual part of the house.


And so he begins to pose problems and raise questions. This too we are familiar with. How often it happens in life that when a man's conscience is touched by the Word of God he very quickly executes a withdrawal. "Is there a God at all? Surely I'm not going to let someone frighten me who perhaps doesn't even exist!" This is what the lawyer is doing here. He says quite simply, "And who is my neighbor?" And by this he means to imply: Now, Jesus of Nazareth, it is a very problematical thing, this question of who my neighbor is. Is he the man in the servants' quarter, or the poor old lady I see going to fetch her milk in the morning, or are there not other people (for example, my customers or my suppliers, from whom I get something in a business way) who may be much closer to me? This is something that must first be determined. But as long as this is not clear (and it never will be altogether clear, he concludes with some relief, chuckling to himself), I am still not obliged to practice love. How can I love when I don't know whom I am supposed to love?


So he feels a bit easier again. As long as a man has some pious questions to ask he doesn't need to act. He still has a reprieve. And a very nice reprieve too, because then many people consider him a seeker for God, a man who thinks seriously. Above all, there is no need to abandon the comfortable position of the theorist too soon. A man can linger for a while in this state of noncommitment. A man doesn't have to proceed at once to restore his broken marriage and beg his wife for forgiveness; he doesn't need to start immediately to become "democratic"; he doesn't need to go right out the next minute and frequent the back streets with their awful smell of poverty.


The lawyer looks at Jesus with eager expectation. Will he be caught in this carefully laid network of problems? Now certainly this Nazarene must himself begin to philosophize. Now surely he will have to discuss the meaning and nature of the term "neighbor," and perhaps the social order, or the relationship of duty and affection, that is, if he is to be considered an intelligent person and taken seriously.


And again it is highly embarrassing that this Jesus once more responds completely differently from what had been expected. He always does just the opposite of what one expects. He tells a story (a tale, an anecdote!). The lawyer may well have felt it to be outrageous that Jesus should answer him with a tale when he was asking a fundamental question. He might permit himself to do such a thing in the Ladies' Aid or in an old folks' home. But to him? And yet there was something remarkably compelling about this story. The lawyer had not a moment of time to direct his thoughts elsewhere.


"A man," said Jesus, "was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho."


Ah, thinks the scribe, here we go again. "A man," he says. This is no doubt the neighbor whom I asked about. A very generalized beginning, a generalization, one might say. Just any person, not a fellow citizen, not a member of my firm, not my wife, not my child-just any person should be my neighbor? Perhaps even the accordion player on the ferry? Now, this is going to be funny, if all men are going to be treated alike and called my neighbors just because they are men and walk on two legs. This time I won't recite my piece like a schoolboy; this time I'll give him tit for tat!


So there a man lies wounded, Jesus goes on with his story. He has been attacked and he lies there in horrible pain and fever, suffering the dreadful anxiety of dereliction, added to the nervous shock caused by the attack itself. He sees someone in clerical dress coming down the road, also from Jerusalem. Mortal fear can make a person very sharpsighted and sharp-witted, and like a flash the thought goes through the aching head of this poor creature who has been beaten black and blue: Here is a priest who has just come from the temple! He must have heard or even preached a sermon on loving God and one's neighbor. Thank God that it is someone who is still under the impression of the temple who should happen to come by. He surely will help me.


But in the same moment the priest had seen him too. The wounded man knew very well that he had seen him. But the priest had a different opinion about the concept of the neighbor from that of the wounded man. This is always the case. When we are in trouble we think that everybody who has more money than we do is our neighbor and is obligated to help us. When the refugee lands here with nothing but his suitcase in his hand he at first considers every businessman to whom he applies for a job to be his neighbor. For after all, he thinks, this man has struck it rich in the German upsurge of prosperity, whereas he himself has been a victim of the process. After all, he, the refugee, has had to pay the costs of this historic bankruptcy for others. After all, he is the one who fell among robbers. Therefore he must be helped. And therefore this businessman is his neighbor. But the serious, solid citizen thinks otherwise. He sees all this distress in the East, the contributions for Berlin, the thousands of aged and sick people who are dumped upon us here, and perhaps even reunification as merely a ball and chain that is going to be hung on him and the whole of Western Germany, and therefore a man can't take any chances. This is a clear, logical objection. The refugee was also thinking clearly and logically. But both of them arrive at completely opposite answers to the question of who is a neighbor. This is always the way it is in life. And this is also the first thing that we must realize at this point: The person who is appealed to for help and the person who needs help sometimes have quite different ideas about the meaning of the word "neighbor." The neighbor is a magnitude which is at least as problematical and disputed as the existence of God-even though we can see him, as we cannot see God.


Therefore, if we are to find out who our neighbor really is we must be very critical of our own ideas. For one thing, we people above all who are perhaps still fairly well off must stop and consider whether the other person, the refugee, the widow, the hard-pressed neighbor, does not see his neighbor in us. And whether we really can dismiss him as lightly as we do with the thought and the poor comfort that we already have other obligations to other people.


This is precisely what happened here in the parable. The priest thought to himself: "0 God, the poor fellow! Lucky it didn't happen to me." Perhaps even thanked God for it, for he is pious, and God has graciously preserved him from robbers and all catastrophes-from loss of his home, from bomb damage, from the fate of the war widow, and so on. But for goodness' sake, thinks the priest, interrupting his pious reflections, this surely doesn't mean that I have to help this poor fellow now! The same robbers may still be lying in wait a hundred yards away, just waiting to knock me on the head too. And yet-his conscience compels him to reflect-it would be cowardly not to help. After all, God has put this poor neighbor in my way. I have just heard it said in the temple that to be fainthearted is to deny God and sabotage his law.


Under the constraint of this consideration he was about to resolve to go the way of sacrifice for God's sake. Already his hand was reaching for his handkerchief to bind up the man's wounds and, without knowing it, he had already taken a few steps toward him.


But at the last moment there occurred to the priest a saving thought, which at one stroke released him from this painful and hazardous obligation and dispersed these self-reproaches of cowardice. And the saving thought was this question: Who is my neighbor? This fellow whom I don't know at all? This fellow who may well be a rascal or even a drunk who probably ran his head into a tree? My family comes first. If it were only myself, I would sacrifice my life for him. But I must maintain my family, my vocation, and therefore my real "neighbor." It surely would not be obedience, but sinful, if I too were to allow these robbers to do me in. Bad enough that one person should be assaulted. Nobody would be served if this gang were to beat and maim not only one but two persons. Besides, I have all the collection money from the temple in Jerusalem in my pocket. It would be foolhardy of me to allow this money, which belongs to God, to fall into the hands of the robbers. He thought of a hundred other reasons why this man could not possibly be his neighbor. Reasons always present themselves when we want to duck something. Even the worst blockhead suddenly becomes as sharp-witted as a mathematics professor when it comes to finding reasons for getting out of doing something. The road to hell is paved not merely with good intentions but with good reasons.


So the priest passed by on the other side. This is a sign that this pacification of his conscience did not work quite smoothly after all. He made a wide detour around the poor man in order not to see him. For the sight of him might accuse him and take away from him all his good reasons. This is why the rich man let poor Lazarus lie at his door. He denied him entrance into his house, not because he was afraid he would catch his lice or his T.B., but because he did not want to see him. None of us really wants to see. For to look at our neighbor's misery is die` first step in brotherly love. Love always seizes the eyes first and then the hand. If I close my eyes, my hands too remain unemployed. And finally my conscience too falls asleep, for this disquieting neighbor has disappeared from my sight. Therefore at the Last judgment it is our eyes that will be judged first. When Jesus says to the people at the Last Judgment, "It was I whom you met in the naked, the hungry, the imprisoned, and you did not help me," it is highly characteristic that the accused should reply, "Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or naked or sick?" (Matt. 25:44).


Do we really get the point? What they are saying is "We did not see thee." And one day the priest too will say this. He will point out that his footprints will prove that he took a wide detour around the wounded man and therefore he could not possibly have recognized this individual, could not possibly have recognized the Saviour. Except that here he is confusing cause and effect. He did not fail to see the wounded man because his path led him too far away from him but because he saw him and did not want to see him and therefore made the wide detour. It is so easy to make the detour and see nothing. It is so easy to slide over the statistics of misery in the press and turn off the radio when appeals are made for help. Why is it that back there so few of us heard or knew anything about the concentration camps and the Jewish programs? Perhaps because we did not want to listen, because we were afraid of what would happen to our world view and our peace of mind and certain conclusions which would have to be drawn? Therefore once more: You and I will be judged by our eyes. There are certain things and certain people I do not want to see. It may be my Saviour whom I have failed to see.


The first commandment of brotherly love is — eye control!


The Levite too passed by on the other side. He may well have indulged in similar reflections. Perhaps he had a lecture on brotherly love to deliver that evening in Jericho. He made some very quick and precise calculations: if I get held up with this poor chap, I'll miss my lecture. If I stop here I would be helping only one person, whereas my lecture on brotherhood may touch off a movement to establish a whole Good Samaritan Society. Ergo: the arithmetic proves the case. The devil is always a good mathematician; he never makes any boners in logic. And the Levite, as he engaged in this devil's arithmetic, was completely unaware that he was traveling on two different tracks: that for the sake of his lecture on loving one's neighbor he was letting his neighbor stick in his misery; that he was trying to serve God and at the same time dishonoring him in his children; that he was praying and at the same time spitting in his Lord's face.


Therefore the second commandment of brotherly love is-control of the place where we live our lives. Taking stock to see whether in the house of our life the worship corner may not be separated by only the thinnest wall from the devil's chapel. There are many dwellings in the house of our heart-any number of them. And some mighty crazy things are lying right next to each other in it.


Is it really necessary for me to describe the moment when the Samaritan came to the wounded man, that moment when the poor fellow was in utter despair and after all these disappointments had given up all hope? Or must I go on and describe the solicitude with which the Samaritan performed his task? Must I go on and praise his fearlessness as far as the robbers were concerned? Must I point out that his was not merely a momentary compassion, an upsurge of emotion, but that he also made provision for the immediate future of the wounded man, that he made arrangements with the innkeeper and was prepared to take further responsibility for him? And all this despite the fact that he was a Samaritan and had not learned such binding words about loving one's neighbor as had the priest and the Levite, despite the fact, therefore, that he possessed a very deficient theory of love!


There is really no need to go into all this; for the point of the parable is that we should identify ourselves with the priest and the Levite and repent. It would have us remove the blinders from our eyes. It would teach us simply to get to work and do something. For the parable closes with the same words as the first part of the conversation; "Go and do likewise!"


It would be wrong to speculate and brood upon the Word of God before ever setting about doing it. We would have a long time of it and, I am afraid, we shall not be finished with it even at the Day of judgment if we are going to insist that first we must know all about predestination and the freedom of the will, what happens to those who cannot believe or do not hear the message of Christ, why there must be a Cross of Calvary and the whole doctrine of atonement, and-last but not least-who then is my neighbor. We shall never get any light on all this unless this very day we "go and do likewise."


May I again give you a few altogether practical precepts? You will never learn who Jesus Christ is by reflecting upon whether there is such a thing as sonship or virgin birth or miracle. Who Jesus Christ is you learn from your imprisoned, hungry, distressed brothers. For it is in them that he meets us. He is always in the depths. And we shall draw near to these brethren only if we open our eyes to see the misery around us. And we can open our eyes only when we love. But we cannot go and do and love, if we stop and ask first, "Who is my neighbor?" The devil has been waiting for us to ask this question; and he will always whisper into our ears only the most convenient answers. We human beings always fall for the easiest answers. No, we can love only if we have the mind of Jesus and turn the lawyer's question around. Then we shall ask not "Who is my neighbor?" but "To whom am I a neighbor? Who is laid at my door? Who is expecting help from me and who looks upon me as his neighbor?" This reversal of the question is precisely the point of the parable.


Anybody who loves must always be prepared to have his plans interrupted. We must be ready to be surprised by tasks which God sets for us today. God is always compelling us to improvise. For God's tasks always have about them something surprising and unexpected, and this imprisoned, wounded, distressed brother, in whom the Saviour meets us, is always turning up on our path just at the time when we are about to do something else, just when we are occupied with altogether different duties. God is always a God of surprises, not only in the way in which he helps us-for God's help too always comes from unexpected directions-but also in the manner in which he confronts me with tasks to perform and sends people across my path.


Therefore the third commandment or counsel for the practice of brotherly love is this: Be flexible, adaptable, maneuverable, and ready to improvise!


We cannot close without mentioning the fact (which, of course, should have been behind every word we have spoken) that it is Jesus Christ who is telling the parable. We hear the parable from the lips of him who is the Good Samaritan of us all, who became our neighbor. When we come to die we can sing, "Thence with joy I go to Christ, my Brother." The noises of the world will be hushed, we shall be left in utter loneliness; even our dearest must be left behind. But then, precisely then, is he our neighbor, the neighbor who will not forsake us; for he faced the robber, Death, and allowed him to strike him down in order that he might walk with us down this last bitter passage. And when we suffer some distress in which nobody understands us or anxieties that deliver us to terrible loneliness, there is one who is our neighbor, because on the Cross he submitted himself to imprisonment in the dark dungeon of ultimate loneliness. And when we stand all alone, quivering beneath a sense of awful guilt, which nobody else suspects, which would cause our friends to desert us if they knew about it, then here too Jesus is the neighbor who is not shocked by the dark abyss, because he came down from heaven and descended into the deepest pits of misery and guilt. Jesus loves us and therefore he finds us. And therefore he also knows us. He knows us better than we know ourselves and still he does not drop us, still he remains our friend, our nearest friend.


In this happy certainty we can proceed to act. Who would not wish to do something for him, since he himself has become our neighbor; who would refuse to honor him in his poor and miserable brothers!

Therefore let this last thing be said about loving our neighbor. All loving is a thanksgiving for the fact that we ourselves have been loved and healed in loving; we grow into all the mysteries of God when we pass on what we have received and when we learn by experience that a disciple of Jesus becomes not poorer but ever richer and happier in giving and sacrificing and that whatever of his feeble strength he puts at God's disposal comes back to him in twelve great baskets. For God is princely in his giving and incalculable in the abundance of his mercy.


"Therefore, being engaged in this service by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart."