Life is composed of choices and decisions. Right now the Supreme Court is hearing arguments abut the Affordable Care Act. I do not pretend to understand the arguments the lawyers are making, but what I hear is that the health care many depend upon is threatened. Caring people across our country find this possible loss of health care coverage during a pandemic egregious.
The law can be a cold thing, especially when used to maintain unjust systems. Unjust systems are established, not for the general welfare of a whole population, but for the welfare of a select group. Once unjust systems are up and running it is difficult to change them. Our health care system, even with the Affordable Care Act, is unjust because it leaves out many people and good care is still unaffordable to many.
The Affordable Care Act, while not covering all our people, at least broadened health care coverage to include more people. However, this meant a loss of revenue for those who benefitted from an unjust system. They are fighting back and attempting to use law to get their way.
What does the gospel — the good news– tell us about all of this? First, we know that Christ Jesus offered healing to those in need without price. He also broke the law several times to provide this healing, choosing compassion over the coldness of the law. Jesus was known for challenging laws and systems that oppressed vulnerable people.
But one his stories reveals more to me. It is the story of the Good Samaritan as told to us by the author of the Gospel of Luke. It tells of a man who was beaten, robbed, and left for dead alongside the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Two out of three people who saw him in his distress walked on by without helping. The third was moved by compassion and looked after him.
It does seem as if most people are concerned first with themselves and their own needs. I imagine the first two people who saw this poor man were asking themselves what might happen to them if they stopped to help. It seems obvious that they decided that the cost of helping him was not worth the risk. The third person seems to have approached this situation with a different attitude. I imagine this one asking — what will happen to this man if I don’t stop and help?
The story of the Good Samaritan was told to illustrate the Law: “You must love the Most High God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10: 27) We show our love for God by loving our neighbor. It is as simple as that. It turns out that God cares deeply about how we treat one another.
Compassionate caring and mercy are of far more importance to God than innumerable rituals, devotionals, prayers, rosaries, novenas, sacrifices, offerings, or acts of piety. Therefore, what matters when we are making decisions that impact other people, especially those in need, is what will happen to them if we don’t help. So, what will happen if people can no longer access health care? What will happen if the cost of health care requires people to go bankrupt to afford it? What happens to those with pre-existing conditions when health care coverage becomes unaffordable again? Do we think the Supreme Court will make decisions based solely on the coldness of the law, or will compassion find a place in their decisions? I don’t know.
What I do know is that compassionate caring and mercy are at the heart of our mission as Christians. The situation in our country and in our world is painful to too many people. We are the ones called to partner with God to make this a better world. If the Supreme Court makes a decision that goes against compassion it will be time to get back to work to create laws that benefit the general welfare of our population in regard to health care, and not the welfare of a select and privileged group.
My beloved ones, let us stay alert and ready to work to create communities of justice, peace, and compassionate love.