XLI. Pope Benedict looks at the Good Samaritan parable from a variety of lenses. One interpretation is moral – an examination of conscience on how our social structures can be indifferent both to the poverty and need of foreign lands and our own community, and to the essential Christian message of God’s love and hope along with the material aid we might supply. It also demands that we see not only material poverty but also the inner poverty of those whose lives have been devastated by the consequences of excess and individualism – “the victims of drugs, of human trafficking, of sex tourism, inwardly devastated people who sit empty in the midst of material abundance” (p. 199).
A second interpretation is Christological – that the victim of robbers is all of humanity, and Christ is seen in the Good Samaritan, one who is an “outsider” as God’s Son come into the world. Various writers have assigned different meanings to details of the story – the oil and wine as symbols of the sacraments, the two coins being Old and New Testaments or the humanity and divinity of Christ, for instance. This reads the parable with its overall simple message of compassionate response to suffering as an allegory – not entirely false, of course, but reading beyond the text itself.
The Pope concludes his review of the Good Samaritan parable: “The two characters in this story are relevant to every single human being. Everyone … must first be healed and filled with God’s gifts. But then everyone is also called to become a Samaritan – to follow Christ and become like him. When we do that, we live rightly. We love rightly when we become like him, who loved all of us first (cf. I Jn:419)” (p. 201).