Who Are These Robbers?
By: Rachel Lyons
I want to know what happens to the robbers and the passers- by. is Sunday’s Gospel which is o en referred to as ‘ e Good Samaritan’ leaves out any details about the robbers who initially beat up someone and leave them on the side of the road. Who are these robbers? Why don’t they have enough money or food or clothing? What is so unequal in the society around them that they are not cared for? Who is taking too much? What hurt are the robbers carrying? And why do we o en only see them as one-dimensional, as robbers, and not as human beings or souls or children of God? For me, the robbers are a vivid wake up call to the broken bonds of community and of humanity. e robbers continue on the road and leave another person in pain, robbing a human of their dignity. And then two more people pass by this su ering human. And they, too, rob him of his dignity. Who is this priest and this Levite? And are they that di erent from the robbers?
We must be willing to call into community and into humanity and into divinity all of God’s children: the robbers, those who pass by the victims of their actions, and the victims themselves. Jesus is not asking us to measure out who deserves care and who wins the respectability politics game and who looks enough like those in power to be saved. No. Jesus shares a story of being neighbor in order to make concrete what it really is to love God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind. To love your neighbor as yourself. Let there be emphasis on personal acts of mercy to care for those abandoned in our city AND let there be a brave conversation with those who hurt others and those who ignore the victims. Robbers and too-busy-for-you speed walkers and apathetic citizens are neighbors, too. We don’t get a choice of who is in and who is out. e second reading today from Colossians emphasizes that all of creation is in Christ Jesus, “and in him all things hold together.” So then how do we nd opportunities to call back to community our neighbors who hurt and our
neighbors who pass by? I had an opportunity like this right on the front steps of Old St. Pat’s, and I missed it.
About a year ago, I was chatting with folks outside of church on the sidewalk before 5pm mass. As I approached the church steps, I saw a person asking for money to get on the bus. e person stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked up to the church doors. Another man stood at the top of the stairs, presumably waiting for a family member to join him before heading into church. e person at the bottom of the stairs got his attention and started to speak about the search for change to get on the bus. e man at the top of the stairs did not look at the person but merely waved his hand curtly as if to say, “Move along, you don’t belong here.” He then turned around and went into mass. e person at the bottom of the stairs narrowed his eyes, took a deep breath, and started walking away. I went up to him and talked for a bit, embarrassed by what just happened. While this choice seemed to be the best one at the time, I found myself with a whole lot of regret later. I think I should have approached the man at the top of the stairs rather than the one at the bottom. e man who was attending church at Old St. Pat’s should know that we do hospitality di erently here, and it does not look like wagging a nger at another human or waving them along. It involves eye contact. It demands interruption in your day so there is more room for the Holy Spirit to move, to breathe, to live, to foster connection. It echoes Jesus’ words and actions. I missed the man at the top of the stairs, and I am sadly certain he will go on to pass by more people. I could have had a conversation with him that invited a change in his heart. Now, maybe he would have ignored me. Fine. But I would sleep better at night knowing I tried. And I would not be writing about a man I missed at the top of the stairs at Old St. Pat’s one year later. I pray for courage in the days to come, that our community of faith is united as one in word, in deed, and in each confrontation that leads to re ection, growth, and transformation. It starts with us.
Rachel Lyons directs the Social Action Ministry at and leads a number of important faith and justice based programs at Old St. Patrick’s Church. You can contact her by email to firstname.lastname@example.org