`A CERTAIN man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves....'' It's a familiar story,1 about travelers on that road to Jericho -- a priest, a Levite, a Samaritan -- and only one had compassion. The Samaritan bound the injured man's wounds, took him to an inn, and paid for his care. A familiar news story these days is about great numbers of wounded and homeless. They are on anyone's daily travels -- the person huddled over a subway vent or salvaging newspapers and tin cans from trash bins. Then there are the masses of refugees worldwide who might as well live next door to us, so familiar are their stories and faces from media coverage. It would appear that these ``certain'' men, women, and children have little hope of breaking out of the cycles of poverty, political victimization, or ``natural'' disasters.
Most citizens think something ought to be done about these homeless. Many act on their convictions. Yet the urge to pass judgment and pass ``by on the other side'' may be the greatest deterrent to solution. The question of ``whether'' to have compassion often precludes the ``how''; both are as timely as the parable given by Jesus 2,000 years ago. Jesus' lesson remains compelling: to be a true neighbor, to show compassion on those you meet, enemy or friend, foreigner or countryman, rich man, poor man.
All well and good, but most of us are not in a position to take in even one homeless family. So what can we do?
As is true of his parables, the ministry and works of Christ Jesus did not serve a theoretical theology. They illustrated a life rooted in love for God and for man. Jesus indicated that this love and life are possible to those who pray with all the heart. Certainly he loved his neighbor by healing every kind of illness, by healing lack, sin, and suffering through prayer. And he taught his followers to do the same.
It was prayer and spiritual intuition that led generations of the children of Israel in their travels from slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land. As the Christian Science textbook by Mary Baker Eddy2 notes: ``From beginning to end, the Scriptures are full of accounts of the triumphof Spirit, Mind, over matter. Moses proved the power of Mind by what men called miracles; so did Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha. The Christian era was ushered in with signs and wonders.''3
When we are willing to pray for another, we fulfill the role of neighbor and bring to bear on circumstances the truth that God and His spiritual law are superior to materialistic assumptions about the way things have to be. The effect of this recognition can be to cut through bureaucratic mazes, cross mental boundaries of racial and religious distrust, and find daily provision when resources are scarce.
Through prayer we are able to give up a merely material rationality in favor of spiritual reality. Prayer, for a Christian Scientist, recognizes that God is the divine and only Mind, who created the universe, including man, spiritual and complete. And this is the basis for claiming good as the ultimate and only reality and for proving that spiritual truth in individual instances of healing. Mrs. Eddy observes, ``Belief in a material basis, from which may be deduced all rationality, is slowly yielding to the idea of a metaphysical basis, looking away from matter to Mind as the cause of every effect.''4
Often it's when political or social channels have rendered neither hope, food, shelter, nor solution that people resort to the primary source of help -- God. Jesus told his followers, in essence: Your Father knows you must have things like food, shelter, clothing, though getting them is not the goal of life. We can trust Him to provide what we need. The Master said, ``Seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.''5
Surely such a promise is not viable only for one nationality, location, or period of history. While the political complexities of homelessness today are extraordinary, prayer that looks to the authentic power of God is even more extraordinary.
An incident in which I relied on prayer brought this point home to me. While the particular situation was relatively unimportant, the spiritual truths involved were fundamental.
Caught in a distant city in a snowstorm, I was told again and again that there was not a room to be had. There was no option but prayer, and I willingly looked to God, divine Mind, for help. I felt sure that God's love is a law, bringing harmony. I thought of the consistency of God's provision for the Israelites. My prayer became expectation: ``Father-Mother God, I trust You, and I accept the good You have for me.''
Then it occurred to me to go to a nearby library. A nearly unbelievable telephone networking began, leading to the needed lodgings.The hostess's comment on my arrival was, ``I think God must have sent you to me.''
This modest resolution doesn't compare to the desperation of people who literally have no place to go. Yet Truth is true whether applied within a small or large context.
Anyone who knows how prayer has brought answers -- whether in illness or joblessness or homelessness, even for a night -- has proved to some degree that prayer for a neighbor may well be the most practical way to show compassion. The Christly spirit of love can get through the indifference of material assumptions and illustrate how God does meet human needs.
1See Luke 10:30-37. 2The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 139. 4Ibid., p. 268. 5Luke 12:31, 32.