A Mission Moment: The Good Samaritan and Visiting the Sick

By Rev. Timothy Brown, S.J.

During Lent the Rev. Timothy Brown, S.J., assistant to the president for mission integration, will share prayers and other reflections related to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.


As a lawyer and a priest, I have always found the parable of the Good Samaritan very challenging. I am not a Levite but might as well be! I hope to identify as a Samaritan but I cannot say that I have always followed the dictates of Jesus’s parable. In this Year of Mercy we are called to have mercy for the sick—to visit those who are in need of our care and attention.

Just then a lawyer stood up to test us.

“Teacher,” he said, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him. “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “you have given the right answer; do this and you will live.”

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that same road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise was a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Jesus answered him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)

In 1889 Van Gogh had himself committed to St Paul’s psychiatric asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence. It was there that he would paint the Good Samaritan.


Take some time to meditate on this painting.

Look at Van Gogh’s brush strokes the colors he has chosen. Meditate on the two figures in the distance on the far left of the painting. Take some time to situate yourself into the work. Check out the open box on the left-hand lower corner of this masterpiece.

Look at the open box. Think of the openness that prompts the Samaritan to be open to mercy and assistance to the wounded man. Let us pray for this same grace of openness.

I have written about my own illness, both cancer and heart. Several years ago after a heart attack and my fifth stent operation I realized, once again, the importance the Divine Office, and most particularly the Hebrew Psalms, played in my recovery.

Coronary artery disease is a challenge to someone as active as I happen to be. Cardiologists will explain that the arteries supply a constant flow of oxygen enriching blood to the heart.

When arteries are healthy, the smooth, inner lining allows blood to flow freely to the heart, supplying it with nutrients and oxygen. But when arteries begin to get clogged, they narrow to the point where the blood flow is impeded. The arteries become stiff and narrow and all kinds of fat and cholesterol begin accumulating farming plaque deposits. That narrowing and stiffness is called atherosclerosis.

A procedure called angioplasty was developed to remove the built-up plaque. This was followed by stenting—a process that opens up clogged arteries and helps to reduce chest pain.

Angioplasty widens and dilates the blocked arteries. The procedure combined with the implantation of stents in the clogged arteries helps to prop open and to decrease the chance of re-blockage.

This procedure saved my life.

Lent offers a moment for us to heal and open up all the blocked spiritual arteries of the past. The Psalms have always been a spiritual way for me to allow the Lord to unblock that which impedes the flow of Christ’s grace within me.

Happy indeed is that people whose God is the Lord.

Teach our hands to war and our fingers to fight
… the disease
… the anxiety
… the fear
… the desire to be productive and active again
. .. the pain
… the frustration.

-Psalm 61-

Hear my cry, 0 God; attend unto my prayer.
From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in thy tabernacle forever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings.
For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name.
Thou wilt prolong the king’s life: and his years as many generations.
He shall abide before God forever: O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him.
So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows.

During the hours of chemotherapy when the IV is hooked up and the chemicals were streaming through my veins, I would pray to Mary. Often I would be surrounded by people who looked much sicker than I felt. Often I would pray the Rosary, asking the Blessed Mother to be with all of us in the room, all of us hooked up, especially those who were close to death.

Hail Mary,
Full of grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Find more reflections from Fr. Brown posted throughout Lent here.

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