Jesus and ‘Foreigners’

CAFOD volunteer from St Joseph’s Parish in Greenwich, Mick Shepherd shares his thoughts on Jesus’ relationship with foreigners, and how we can reflect on this as a Christian.

 I never noticed it until recently (it beats me why not) and that is the significance of the tenth leper (Luke 17) who returned to thank Jesus for curing him. And yet I’d heard this passage so many times before – the only one out of the ten who turned and ran back to thank Jesus was a Samaritan!

As you will know, the Jews did not associate with Samaritans, who were considered ‘foreigners’ and below them and even ‘impure’. Jesus however rebuts Jewish preconceptions by remarking: ‘the other nine, where are they? It seems that no-one has come back to give praise to God except this foreigner’.  Time and time again Jesus confounds Jewish expectations with regard to their perception of ‘foreigners’.

Water pump lent 2016A good example is the woman at the well. Not only should Jesus, a single Jewish male, not be seen alone with a woman frowned upon by others (see Jesus’ comments about her many consorts, none of whom was her husband) but she was a Samaritan.

A ‘foreigner’.

Yet Jesus even offers to give her the ‘water of life’, that is, offer her life eternal! This is truly astonishing – to offer eternal life to someone who is non-Jewish, a foreign woman and one with a questionable reputation.

The famous Good Samaritan parable (Luke 10) is a most powerful story invented by Jesus to emphasise that, contrary to expectations, it is the ‘foreigner,’ the Samaritan, who stops to help the injured man, who helps him and takes him to an inn.

It’s this ‘foreigner’ who ‘goes the extra mile’, offering on his return to pay for any additional expenses incurred. Note that the powerful and influential officials who ‘pass by on the other side’ are respected Jewish ‘establishment figures’, a priest and a Levite.

hartley-2016-refugee_pilgrimageThey have no time. They don’t want to have anything to do with the injured man, even though he is a fellow Jew. (Again, note it’s the Samaritan who stops to help a person who is even not of his own race!). Surely this is the strongest of anti-racist messages that Jesus is giving our brothers and sisters across the world?

It seems clear that we, as Christians, need to take Jesus’ teaching extremely seriously, take it literally and at face value: treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves – and that means ALL others.

In the present unpleasant climate of mistrust of ‘foreigners’, immigrants and refugees we need to take Jesus’ teaching seriously to heart. Remember, all people are made in God’s image, all are loved by God – and that ‘in my Father’s house are many mansions’.

The Year of Mercy and its celebration gave us the hope to discover God’s mercy in our own lives so we can share this gift with our neighbours and the earth.

This is why, as a CAFOD supporter, I believe that its motto, ‘Just One World’, is absolutely right! Which brings me back to the significance of the story of the Good Samaritan.

He could not only see good in others but whether they were a ‘foreigner’ or not he was prepared to give succour, sustenance and support to those whose needs were greatest whatever their religion, culture or creed. 

Forced out by war, poverty and persecution, millions of people live uncertain lives as migrants and refugees. But each of us, moved by faith, can respond in welcome, respect and love. You can support CAFOD campaign by writing messages of hope to refugees, using our refugee solidarity liturgy with your school, parish or group, and finding out more about a Catholic response to the refugee crisis.

Come to Understanding CAFOD workshop on 4 February in Amigo Hall SE1 to find out more about CAFOD.