By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, October 3, 2016

First Aid

Many homes and businesses keep on hand a first aid kit. We want to be ready to help anyone who gets injured, and that sometimes means healing wounds with bandages, gauze, ointment and the like. Wounds, though, can go beyond the superficial, and interior injuries can occur to vital organs, such as the heart. So, offices will also often be equipped with defibrillators, and employees will be trained in their use, in CPR etc.

This comes to mind as I reflect upon the Gospel passage assigned for the mass of today. It recounts the familiar and well-beloved parable of the Good Samaritan. In it, Jesus commands that we always to carry with us a first aid kit, so that we are ready to reach out and heal anyone we find left “half-dead at the side of the road.” We are to carry this kit not on our backs or in our hands, but in our hearts. The “first aid” we must always be ready to bring is mercy.

Many people today are “beaten up” by the difficulties of life. I am speaking here of wounds not to the body but to the soul. The wounds may be self-inflicted through sin, failure, mistakes. The bruises and welts may come from the cruelty of things like betrayal, lies, or exploitation. When we encounter a brother or sister who is hurting, we may be tempted to “walk by on the other side”, but the clear call of Christ is to heal the wounds by drawing from the first aid kit of mercy the blanket of love, the ointment of patient listening, the balm of encouragement, the crutch of material or spiritual assistance, the bandage of forgiveness, the gauze of reparation and so on. I’m reminded of the frequent image used by Pope Francis as he speaks of the mission of the Church in our day. He likens it to a field hospital in the midst of a battle. There are so many wounds, he says, and we are called to heal them.

To use CPR at the office, we must be properly trained. Effective use of the first aid kit of mercy likewise requires preparation. If we ourselves experience mercy then we are all the more ready and willing to share it with others. How do I need mercy? Do I feel as if I have been abandoned and left on the side of the road? Am I ready to cast aside pride and seek mercy, especially by asking forgiveness for any wrong-doing on my part? To know the mercy of God is to experience life anew! It liberates me from self-pre-occupation, awakens attentiveness to the needs of others, and inspires me to share with those in need the same mercy of which I have been the recipient.

The Lord Jesus is the Good Samaritan who has by mercy bound up and healed the wounds of broken humanity. May his mercy touch and transform each of us, and make of us agents of his healing mercy toward others.