Reverse the Question

On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, a man fell in with robbers. A priest and a levite came by, but did not stop to help. Despite their knowledge of the Law and Prophets, they walked right by. Why?

One of the reasons may be that they were afraid. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho is a steep and dangerous road. At the time of Jesus, it had come to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” Because of its numerous curves, it lends itself to attacks by robbers who can easily hide not too far from their victims. Perhaps the priests and levites who passed by that man asked themselves, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me? Maybe the robbers who attacked him are still here. Maybe they're hiding just around the bend. This is a dangerous road. I better keep going.”

Sometimes we ask the same question. If I speak up too loudly about the victims of abortion, what will happen to me? Will I face persecution, will I encounter opposition, will I lose popularity if I get involved in a cause like this?

Priests sometimes ask the same question. If I preach about abortion, what will happen to me? What will happen to my parish, my effectiveness, my image? What legal troubles might I provoke?

Politicians sometimes ask the same question. If I say I am pro-life, what will happen to my votes, to my standing in the polls, to my chances in the election?

And then the Good Samaritan came along, and he reversed the question. He didn't ask, “If I help this man, what will happen to me?” The Good Samaritan asked, “If I do not help this man, what will happen to him?” And that's the question for us. If I do not address this evil, what will happen to the unborn? If I do not get involved, what will happen to those who are vulnerable, to those who are marginalized our society, those who are oppressed, those who have no one to speak for them?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. brought out this same lesson from this same parable on the night before he was assassinated. He called the people to a “dangerous unselfishness” as he rallied them to stand with the oppressed sanitation workers in Memphis. And in regard to himself, he declared that it didn't matter what happened to him; he just wanted to do God's will.

These words of holocaust survivor Elie Weisel sum it up well: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

(Contact Priests for Life at P.O. Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314; Tel: 888-PFL-3448, 718-980-4400; Fax: 718-980-6515; email:; web:

Fr. Frank Pavone


Father Frank A. Pavone is an American Roman Catholic priest and pro-life activist. He is the National Director of Priests for Life and serves as the Chairman and Pastoral Director of Rachel's Vineyard.

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