15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 14, 2013
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville 9:30 and 11:15am
Hurrying and Helping
Some years ago, Princeton University did a study on what they called “Good Samaritan” responses.
The University divided some students into three groups. Each group was told to report to another building across the campus to take a test.
The first group was told to get there immediately and they were called the “high hurry” group. The second group was told to get there in fifteen minutes and they were called the “middle hurry” group.
And the third group was told to get there sometime that morning and they were called the “no hurry” group. Without knowing it, the students had been set up for a study.
Along the way, various individuals posed as persons in need. One was crying, another pretended to be sick, and another had a flat tire.
Interestingly, none of the students from the “high hurry” or the “middle hurry” groups stopped to help anyone. But every student from the “no hurry” group stopped.
This was one indicator that led the Princeton study to conclude that as the hurry in our lives increases, our caring decreases. This finding strikes me as pretty accurate.
The Good Samaritan
This Princeton study gives us a helpful angle for looking at today’s gospel.
The gospel says that someone asks Jesus, “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” Maybe this person is really asking: “What do I have to do and what don’t I have to do?”
Jesus ends up telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. As I look at the parable, I have to imagine that there are three levels of response to the man lying by the side of the road: 1) Seeing, 2) Feeling, and 3) Acting.
Seeing, Feeling, and Acting
All three people who are walking on this road see the injured man lying there. The first two, the priest and the Levite, just keep walking.
They know that if they get near this guy or touch him, the religious law makes them ritually unclean. And if that happens, they will have to jump through some time-consuming hoops to become ritually clean again.
So, the first two people see the man but don’t slow down to really see what has happened or to help. The third man comes along, a Samaritan, and he sees the injured man and then slows down and stops.
The Samaritan sees to the point that he feels compassion for the beaten man. And with his compassion, he then acts and does what he can to help.
So, to go back to the Princeton study, it seems that we have to slow down enough to see, to really see the person who is in front of us. For us, it could be a homeless person at a traffic light, carrying a cardboard sign asking for help.
Or it could be a son or daughter who is upset about a relationship that has fallen apart but is trying to hide it. We have to be slow enough to really see who is before us.
And then, if we allow ourselves to do that, we will probably feel compassion for the person or persons who are hurting. And once again, if we are slow enough, the feeling of compassion will move us to act – to do what I humanly can to help, even if it means delaying whatever I was going to do.
So, seeing leads to feeling and feeling leads to acting. But the first thing in this process is that we are willing to slow it down, to live slowly enough at least within ourselves 1) to really see and then 2) to really feel the other person’s plight and then 3) to take time to help.
That seems to be the answer that Jesus gives to the question: “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?”
So, this slowing down so that we 1) see and 2) feel and 3) act must be pretty important stuff.