Everyone knows the story of the Scribe who asks Our Lord, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ answer was clear – and it was not this: “Only those of the same religion, political persuasion and race: Everyone else should be hated, judged and met with derision.”

That’s vulgar, isn’t it? To see such nonsense spelled out should shock us. Yet, I fear, we have become so divided that it may only shock us to see it printed in our Catholic newspaper while some of our personal conversations go unexamined.

Today many believe themselves to be experts on religion, government, the Constitution, medical matters or a variety of other areas – simply because they read certain websites that parrot their own views. It would take most of us a matter of seconds to recall factually inaccurate arguments with another party who believed their position infallible. Worse, those who failed to share the other’s false position were not merely considered wrong; they were seen as evil and working to destroy the Church or the country.

The man who asks Jesus who is his neighbor comes from the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37). You know the story, so I won’t repeat it here. Instead, I will jump right to the end. Who is the neighbor of the injured man? “The one who treated him with mercy,” Jesus said. Notice, there are no qualifiers. Jesus didn’t say, “Well, except those guys, they don’t count!” Simply, we are called to be the neighbor of every person we meet, to treat others, even those who anger and frustrate us, with mercy. So how is it that so many folks proclaim a belief in Jesus Christ while holding views contrary to this?

It seems to me that we live in a time where most of us are “easy pickins” for the devil. The world is a frightening place these days; and when things are fearful and out of our control, we attempt to gain control — one of the easiest ways is to lash out at those we believe are responsible for our pain. A quick look into history reveals an ugly pattern that leads to war – one that begins with the vilification of one group, thus causing that group to become a national scapegoat. “Those people” are seen as the one group whose existence caused the greatest threat; and steps were taken to suppress, remove and nullify their harm to others. In World War II, despite the fact that Germany’s warmongering in the First World War led to economic collapse, the Nazis were able to focus attention on Jewish bankers who were painted as the architects of the country’s economic woes. It was irrational, yet an entire country was happy to turn the blame away from itself and focus on an illogical scapegoat. The devil has been doing this since he first stirred up Cain to slay Abel.

Look, I know that there are some people so entrenched in their views that the idea of just having a conversation with them is distasteful. When we’re attacked, we want to attack in return. Yet a merciful response may take the form of making no response at all. What if, instead of a forceful reply, evil was returned with true and earnest prayer for the other’s well-being? I have three people who daily receive prayers who have no idea I am praying for them. Each has treated me horribly; but instead of fighting them, I sincerely pray instead – and one of the most frequent prayers is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

How naïve, right? While I try to see others as my neighbor, they may just walk all over me. Perhaps, but I have never seen my anger produce any good fruit. I’ve seen it hurt people; I’ve seen it drive me crazy; I’ve seen it cause new problems. But Jesus told me to treat others as my neighbor, and to show others mercy.

Who is my neighbor? Everyone. God give me the mercy to remember this in our challenging time.