Cardinal O'Malley celebrates the annual Red Mass for members of the legal professions, Sept. 28, 2012 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Pilot photo/Kevin Blatt
SOUTH END -- An American fighter pilot, gunned down during World War II, believed he would die in the burning carcass of his plane, behind enemy lines. He regained consciousness in the bed of a German farmer to find his wounds dressed.
Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley told this updated version of Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan to judges, lawyers and court officials gathered at the Red Mass, held at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Sept. 30.
The annual Mass, named for the celebrants' red vestments, is sponsored by the Catholic Lawyers' Guild of the Archdiocese of Boston to begin the judicial year.
"The young American pilot, like the man left for dead on the road to Jericho, was shocked to find mercy where he felt it would never be found. He was forced to see a neighbor in one he considered an enemy," Cardinal O'Malley said.
Galilean peasants, Jesus' original audience for the parable, would have identified with story's victim, adopting the "view from the ditch."
"They would easily have imagined themselves lying there in the gutter, stripped, beaten, helpless, unable to move," he said. "The victim of the crime would realize that accepting mercy from one regarded as an enemy would challenge him to see every person as a neighbor."
They would also have understood the implication that God's healing and mercy can be received only after one has reached the depths of need -- stripped of everything, including hatred and prejudice.