Godtalk: Doing right because it's right

POST BY PKnott

Last Judgement
Stefan Lochner, Last Judgment, c. 1435. Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne

"Have you ever done something simply on principle, because it was the right thing to do, knowing that you couldn't explain it to anyone, without there even being a good feeling attached to your act.  If you have done this, you have experienced God, perhaps without knowing it” (Karl Rahner SJ).

Jesus would agree.  He made the point in his parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matt 25.31f ).  At the end of time we will all be judged according to our helping or failing to help others.  These are the questions:  Did you feed the hungry? Give drink to the thirsty? Invite in the stranger? Clothe the naked? Visit the sick and imprisoned? Because when you do these things to the hungry, to the thirsty, to strangers, to the sick, and to the imprisoned, you do them to God, and vice versa.

In the parable, both those who did what was asked and those who didn't were equally confused and lodged the same protest: When did we see you hungry? When did we see you thirsty? When did we see you naked, or a stranger, or sick, or in prison and serve you or not serve you? When did we see you, God, and do this to you?"

Both kind of persons ask seemingly the same question, but their protests are in fact very different: The first group, those who had measured up, are pleasantly surprised. What they say to Jesus is essentially this: "We didn't know it was you! We were just doing what was right!" And Jesus answers: "It doesn't matter! In serving them, you were meeting me!"

The second group, those who hadn't measured up, is rudely shocked. Their protest, in effect, is this: "If we had only known that it was you inside the poor and disadvantaged we would have responded. We just didn't know!" And Jesus answers: "It doesn't matter! In not serving them, you were avoiding me!"

The first group, who did respond, did so simply because it was the right thing to do. They didn't know that God was hidden inside the people they helped. The second group didn't reach out because they didn't realize that God was inside those they ignored. Neither knew that God was there, and that is the lesson of the parable

Christians do not calculate or make distinctions as to whether God is inside a certain situation or not, whether a person seems worth it or not, whether a person has any beliefs, or whether a person appears to be a good person or not, before reaching out in service.  Christians help whoever is in need, independent of those considerations – like the Good Samaritan.

Peter Knott SJ