As the snow begins to fall and we move into the Christmas season, Salvation
Army bell ringers are stationed in front of most stores to collect for the homeless. Our mailboxes are stuffed with solicitations
from every charity on Earth, or so it seems. Even television plays endless reruns of Dickens's Christmas Carol, reminding
us of the fate of the hard-hearted. How shall we respond to the poor among us, to those in need?
Jesus gives us the image of the Last Judgment in today's gospel. He is enthroned
as Christ the King in all his glory. He is separating the good from the evil. He is identifying those who are destined for
heaven and those who are to be case into eternal darkness. Does Christ separate the good from the evil based on any of the
sins we usually consider worthy of getting the gate of heaven barred to us? No, he speaks of what we have failed to do.
He speaks of the things we hardly ever think of as sins. He speaks of things that we often think are none of our business.
He speaks of things that we think people should do for themselves. You failed to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty,
welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, or visit those ill or in prison.
Now forget about heaven and hell. Jesus isn't just telling us that we have
to do good works to get to heaven, or give to charity, or even give handouts to the poor. Jesus is telling us something much
more basic and more difficult.
Christ the King explains to humanity at the Last Judgment that what they did
for the least of their brothers and sisters they did for him and what they failed to do for the least of their brothers and
sisters they failed to do for him. Notice Jesus isn't talking about helping the poor or visiting prisoners. He is talking
about our brothers and sisters. The poor we can ignore or aid with a few dollars given to charity. Our brothers and sisters we can not ignore, they're family. If my brother or sister needs help, I drop
what I'm doing and go help them. What kind of a person would I be to ignore the need of my brother or sister? The lesson of
today's gospel is that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ for God is our Father.
The needs of our brother's and sisters are our business. Who is my brother or sister? Everyone is my brother and sister?
Jesus gives us one more way to look at the situation. Jesus loves you and I
with an overwhelming and passionate love. Maybe now and then deep in prayer or at some special moment in our lives we get
a sense of the power of God's love for us.
- Now, if I loose my job does
God love me any less? No!
- If I make poor choices with
my life, does God love me any less? No! In fact, God is concerned over my poor choices and wants to help me repair the damage
that has been done.
- If I am in need, unemployed,
homeless, in prison, or in the hospital, does God love me any less?
Given this tremendous and unconditional love that God has for us, to whom does Jesus direct us in order to respond with our whole heart? He tells us...what you do for the least of your brother & sisters you do for me. If we were to look upon the face of the
poorest and neediest among us and see Christ's face. Would we fall over ourselves in our rush to respond in kind to the overwhelming
love we have been given by Christ. Or, would we ignore him? This is the question that Jesus puts to us in today's gospel reading.
Jesus wants us to see beyond the issue of a few coins self-righteously tossed into a collection box during the Christmas holidays.
Jesus is trying to get us to see that those in need are not some abstract categories called "the needy" or the "homeless".
They are our brothers and sisters who are loved as deeply and as totally by God as are each of us. As we would respond to
the needs of the brothers & sisters with whom we grew up, we are to respond to all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Not only are they our brothers and sisters, they are a sacrament of Christ's presence among us. Jesus tells us that what we
do for the least among us, we do for him!