Saturday afternoon Pope Francis visited Villa Nazareth in the Pineta Sacchetti area of Rome. Villa Nazareth was founded in 1946 for orphans and poor children in order to provide the underprivileged with educational opportunities.
Today Villa Nazareth helps young people who are experiencing economic hardship but who also show great intellectual potential. It provides them with a program of Christian formation and inspiration. The institution’s charism, its mission, is to promote a “diaconate of culture” and to form people who can be role models in society as moral witnesses.
Pope Francis gave a catechesis on Luke’s gospel passage of the Good Samaritan. There are many characters in this passage, he said, but who qualifies as a neighbor? The robber, the poor man who was left for dead on the road, the priest, the doctor of the law, the lawyer? Or the innkeeper? Perhaps none of these knew how to answer such a question. The priest was in a hurry, like all priests and no doubt he’s looking at his watch and saying to himself that he must celebrate the Mass, or that he’s left the door of the church open and he must close it. The doctor of the law, a practical man, said “But if I meddle in this, tomorrow I must go to court, give my testimony, say what I’ve done, losing two, three days of work … ”
Instead, this other person, a sinner, a foreigner who was not, properly speaking, a member of the people of God, finds himself moved: “He had compassion.” And he stopped. All three – the priest, the lawyer and the Samaritan – knew well what to do. And each made their own decision.
Pope Francis said, however, that it could be of benefit to think of the situation from the perspective of the innkeeper who remains anonymous. He’s watched all of what has happened and does not understand anything, saying to himself, “But this is crazy! A Samaritan who helps a Jew? It’s crazy! And then, with his own hands he tends wounds and brings him to the hotel and tells me, ‘But you, take care of him, I will pay you if it’s something more.’ But I have never seen this! This is crazy!”
And that man, Pope Francis continued, has received the Word of God in testimony. Whose? Of the priest? No, because he didn’t even see the man. The lawyer is the same. The sinner, however: he has compassion. He was not a faithful member of the People of God but he had compassion. And he understood nothing.
This, Pope Francis said, is what qualifies as testimony. The testimony of this sinner has sowed restlessness in the heart of the innkeeper. What happened to this innkeeper the Gospel does not say – and doesn’t even record his name. But surely this man’s curiosity grew, his restlessness has been allowed to grow in his heart.
Pope Francis asked, “And why do I dwell today on this character, this person?” The testimony, he says, is to live in this way so that others “may see your works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven”, that is, to meet the Father.
Pope Francis concluded by hoping that all who see the good work of Villa Nazareth may respond in this way and not as priests who may rush away quickly or doctors who wish to present the faith of Jesus Christ with mathematical rigidity. May we be taught the wisdom of the Gospel: “to get one’s hands dirty.” May the Lord give us this grace.