In the Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus gives us the definitive criteria that will be used to “separate the sheep from the goats” – a metaphor used to identify those who will be able to receive all that God wishes to give to us and those who will not. In this parable, the King does not say “Come to me, all those who hold these strict beliefs or all those who worship a certain way. He does not say “Come to me – buuuut only the Catholics…or only the Protestants…. or only the Muslims.” Nope.
Rather, the King says ‘Come, you who are blessed; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me in. I needed clothes, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you looked after me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me.’ The sole criteria for our entry into eternal well-being is how we care for one another. How we treat others. How we show mercy to those who are suffering.
And yet, we don’t always do these good things. Why? Why don’t we do what we know Jesus would have us do? Why, rather, do we collapse in bed at the end of the night, exhausted, feeling as though we have spent the day running with all our might really, really fast in the wrong direction? Don’t we all suspect that we are racing up a ladder that is leaning against the wrong house? (Allen Raine)
A few years back, sociology professors from Princeton University ran a fascinating research project called “The Good Samaritan Study.” They set up this experiment: They scheduled one-on-one interviews with some seminary students – and just as the interview was ending they asked each student to immediately walk over to a designated classroom all the way across campus to give an important lecture on morality, using the parable of the Good Samaritan as a foundational text.
Some students were told that they had plenty of time to get across campus, others were told that they had just enough time, but not to dawdle and still others were given a super tight timeline between when the interview ended and when they were expected to begin their talk in the classroom, forcing them to hurry.
On their trek across campus, each seminary student encountered an actor playing a distressed person (much like the beaten traveler in the Good Samaritan parable). The test was to see whether or not the student would stop and help. One would presume, because these particular students study and teach the Gospel and are committed to service, that they might be more likely to stop than most other people. But that wasn’t the case. In fact, their knowledge of Jesus and their obvious familiarity with the Good Samaritan parable, had little to no effect on their behavior in this situation.
Only one thing did: The student’s choice to stop or not, to help the person in need or to pass them by, was decided almost solely by whether they felt they were in a hurry or not. Their choice was almost entirely situational; dependent on how much time they felt they could spare. The results indicate that ‘ethics and morality become a luxury as the speed of our daily lives increases.’
Fr. Ron Rolheiser concludes: “Haste is our true enemy. It puts us under stress, raises our blood pressure, makes us impatient, renders us more vulnerable to accidents and, most seriously of all, blinds us to the needs of others. Moving too fast is not a virtue, irrespective of the goodness of the thing towards which we are hurrying. Haste and hurry, perhaps more than anything else, prevent us from being good Samaritans.”
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