This season of the church year, Lent, prepares us for Holy Week and Easter. Day by day we are journeying ever closer to the solemn remembrances of Jesus’ last supper and his crucifixion. Then finally on Easter Sunday we will rejoice, singing our alleluias, at the mystery of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
The observance of Lent is often compared to a journey. When we studied the Good Samaritan last week in our Wednesday bible study it occurred to me that our whole Christian life is a journey. You may remember Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus is answering the question of the Pharisee, “who is my neighbor?” through the use of this parable. A man is on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. He is accosted by thieves, beaten, robbed and left naked by the side of the road. Three men are also on the road. The first, a priest, passes him by without stopping, as does the second, a Levite whose work is to serve as an assistant to the priest. But the third man, an outsider from Samaria (a place despised by those who lived in the land of Israel), stops to offer first aid. He takes the injured man to an inn in Jericho and leaves money with the innkeeper to cover two weeks of care. He also pledges to return to the inn and resolve any remaining debt. Jesus asks, “Who was the neighbor?” It was the Samaritan, of course. He saw the need, and responded with abundance.
The Good Samaritan is a challenging parable. It reminds me of the story of a professor who decided to research the effect of this parable on preachers-to-be in seminary. The students filled out a questionnaire, then were told they needed to give a talk on a subject (either the parable of the Good Samaritan, or how to find a campus job) at a room across campus. On the way they passed a fellow student (a drama student, recruited by the professor) who was acting injured, and asking for help. Did they stop to offer help? What do you think? If they were not in a hurry, 63% of the students stopped. If they “just had enough time to get there” 45% stopped, and if they were told that they were already late, only 10% stopped to help. It didn’t matter which talk they had been assigned. The biggest factor in their offering assistance was how much of a hurry they were in.
And so I wonder, how do we keep our eyes open during Lent and indeed during all of life? What is it that lets us see the woman in pain not as a distraction or annoyance, but as a fellow human being, loved by God, and in need of our particular assistance? I think we begin by paying attention, and that means slowing down. Give yourself the time to notice who is around you. Give yourself time so that if someone says to you (as someone did to me at Starbucks just last week) “Do you have a moment- I have a theology question for you?” You can say “I do. I’m not in a hurry.”
And if we slow down, I wonder who God will place in our path, along our journey this month? Perhaps you will provide the answer to someone’s prayer. As the 16th century mystic, Theresa of Avila, reminds us in her writings,
“Christ has no body now but yours; no hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world; yours are the feet with which he walks to do good;
yours are the hands with which he blesses the world.”
May we notice our fellow children of God during Lent. And may we respond as the hands, the feet, and the eyes of Christ to each person we meet along our journey.
With thanks in Christ,