Today’s Gospel reading has so many lessons for us to consider as we live out our journey. One fruitful element of this story is the consideration of we fail to do. What the Samaritan does for the person who was robbed gives us insight into the mercy and neighborliness that Jesus sees as central to his mission. Likewise, what the priest and the Levite fail to do give us insight into the opposite of what Jesus preaches.

I find this category of “failing to do” almost more daunting to consider than what my sinful actions may be in any given day. I don’t think that I actively engage in sinful behavior throughout my day. But there are many times when I fail to respond to others.

Unlike the characters in the parable, I don’t encounter just one request for aid during a long walk to my daily destination. As the mother of three children, the very necessary demands of the day can seem endless. As a professor with many students, the needs of those asking for help or those who should be asking for help are many. I also encounter people begging for money and receive mail asking for donations to feed the hungry. I can’t possibly meet the needs of all who ask or the many who should be asking.

So, how can I discern between failing to do something because I’m too busy and failing to do something because I’m not honoring my Christian commitment?

There are no easy answers, of course. But I have found that certain situations of not loving or not showing mercy haunt me for some time to come. Sometimes it’s a stranger or a student whose face or story I can’t shake. Sometimes it’s how I handle my kids during a rough morning before school. These situations challenge me to pray for and develop the virtue of being more loving or merciful the next time.

Where have you failed to be loving or merciful? What virtue can you strive for so you respond as a neighbor next time?

—Elizabeth Collier has degrees from three different Jesuit universities, including a PhD in Christian Ethics from Loyola University Chicago. She teaches at Dominican University in River Forest, IL.