73. The parable then asks us to take a closer look at the passers-by. The nervous indifference that makes them pass to the other side of the road – whether innocently or not, whether the result of disdain or mere distraction – makes the priest and the Levite a sad reflection of the growing gulf between ourselves and the world around us.
Jesus frames his parable by introducing “respectable” folk. And preachers over the centuries have pointed out various excuses for them: ritual impurity, bait for a crime, busy lives. These are excuses in the Reign of God. Jesus does not prioritize religious practice above human need. And clearly, if robbers are intent on using a wounded person to draw in a helper, the criminals might as well not bother and just attack the new innocent directly.
Excuses place us at a safe distance from the needy and the poor.
There are many ways to pass by at a safe distance: we can retreat inwards, ignore others, or be indifferent to their plight. Or simply look elsewhere, as in some countries, or certain sectors of them, where contempt is shown for the poor and their culture, and one looks the other way, as if a development plan imported from without could edge them out. This is how some justify their indifference: the poor, whose pleas for help might touch their hearts, simply do not exist. The poor are beyond the scope of their interest.
All citations of Fratelli Tutti (which can be found on this link) are © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana