Jesuit Novitiate
Novitiate of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus
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Is God close to the least of these?

by Alessandro Di Mauro

But he (the doctor of the law), wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus: “And who is my neighbour?” Lk 10:29

Often when listening to the gospel passage of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37), I seemed to perceive in the question of the doctor of the law ‘And who is my neighbour?’ a provocation to Jesus, because I always thought it was an obvious question and the answer was obvious. That was until I experienced the second experiment proposed in the novitiate: the month in hospital. I did my service at an RSA of the Little House of Divine Providence  run by the Cottolenghini Their founder St Joseph Benedict Cottolengo was inspired to build this facility when he found himself at the bedside of a young woman who died in childbirth because she was not accepted by any hospital in Turin. This episode saddened him so much that he wanted to welcome all those people who could not find a place in hospital facilities.

Being next to elderly and suffering people for a month gave rise in me to feelings of love and understanding for the last ones and for those who are tired of continuing their existence. It made me experience what it means to be a neighbour to weak and humble people whom you know precisely in their fragile humanity. Of course I have often wondered, like some of them, couldn’t God alleviate their suffering? I was moved when an elderly man, after falling down, told me ‘I didn’t deserve this’, or when with a hug another guest told me ‘I can’t take it anymore’ of suffering, of living… Sometimes we think that to be a neighbour is to find an answer to this pain, but what to answer to these people?

I started from a fact that echoed in the contemplation during the spiritual exercises of the Passion of Christ: Jesus suffered all these sufferings before us, so entrusting yourself to him is not believing that you will suffer less, like entrusting yourself to a magician who solves problems, but it is to be embraced by a God who has already gone through similar sufferings to those you experience. But how can you say this to those who suffer without sounding rhetorical and make them understand that Jesus is truly close to them in their suffering? I don’t really know the answer, but I can testify that Jesus was there in the smiles of the workers who looked after the guests in the facility, in the educator who managed their activities, in the brother or sister who looked after them, he was there in me who tried to be near them with a smile, with a caress and with a hug. Without his presence I would not have succeeded. Is God really close to the least? I would say yes through our hands and our gestures of love.  Alessandro Di Mauro

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