February 23, 2015

The Gospel Today

Monday of the First Week of Lent

Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”

Reflection (Sem. Max Estayo):

Mother Teresa said “one of the greatest disasters is to be nobody to anybody.” According to her, being “unwanted, unloved and uncared for” is a “much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

By experience, I can say this is true. You give me food and I will be grateful to you. You give me love and I will love you back, perhaps even more.

Today’s Gospel speaks about Judgment Day and Jesus is upfront with souls coming before His presence. He welcomes to heaven those who have served the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned during their lifetime. Meanwhile, He casts down to hell those who did otherwise.

The message of the Gospel is simple: love others, especially the poor and the needy whom God looks upon every day. In the first reading, God commands Moses to tell his people that after loving Him, they should love others as themselves (Lev. 19:4,18).

The Scriptures really speak of only thing – love. It is the very attribute of God, and anyone who loves God must love his brother as proof (1 Jn. 4:16, 21). When Jesus talks of love, He is not saying something new, but something that has been present since the foundation of the world. This is also His requirement for His disciples (Jn. 13:35).

I recall to mind what is popularly held that the opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference. You ignore a person, pretend he does not exist and you hurt him more than when you curse him or hit his head with a bat. In the eyes of God, this is also a graver offense – the rich man fell to hell simply because he ignored the poor Lazarus while he feasted at his table (Lk. 16:22-23).

And so Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel: you want a place in heaven, go feed the impoverished straggler you see in the streets, or welcome into your home the man who has lost his house and family from a ferocious storm.

This is difficult to do. I myself, in my state of life as a seminarian, find it hard to cast attention on my fellow brothers in formation, knowing that I barely have enough time to attend to my own concerns. But I have accepted the task to be a beadle, or coordinator, for my batchmates in the seminary. As a future priest, I cannot be indifferent to other people. I have to serve now. Otherwise, I can never begin to preach Jesus’ gospel of love. I can never learn to embrace the poor and needy people out there in the world, if not my next of kin.

But the benefit is really mine. For in serving others, I not only help lessen the occurrence of one of the “greatest disasters” of our time, but I keep myself out of hell’s reach.

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