Here we are, the first full week of Lent, and Jesus is really on us in today’s Gospel about how we treat the least of humanity. No, not your mother-in-law or that guy in the Prius, though he’d like us to say kinder things (or at least nothing at all) about those folks, too.
In today’s Lenten meditation, we’re going to examine Christ’s exhortation to care for others our own selves, rather than hope someone else does it for us. He wants us to be directly involved in ministering to and administering love to those we’d prefer to ignore. I know it seems I’m repeating myself a lot in this series, but Jesus was adamant that we learn to attend to each other’s needs as often as is humanly possible.
This is really hard for us to hear, so he had to say it a lot. It is very human to want to defer care. Creepy people, smelly people, crazy people, and overall hard-to-love people annoy us and scare us and repel us. Jesus one hundred percent doesn’t care that it makes us uncomfortable. He wants us to try to love them somehow, and he has some harsh words about that in today’s Gospel selection, 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.”
When we have the capacity to help someone, and instead ignore them or defer assistance to Someone Else, we risk damnation. That’s an intense message a lot of people don’t want to hear from Jesus. People these days mostly believe that Jesus is a personal genie friend who sends them stuff so they can post it on Instagram and declare themselves #blessed.
We forget that Jesus not only had such love that he laid down his life, but also that he expected us to at least attempt to emulate his love for others. We have delegated so much of Christ’s work to Others that it’s become second nature. One is reminded of Ebenezer Scrooge’s question “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” when asked what to do about the poor.
We’ve all heard someone say “My taxes pay to take care of those people.” Well, imagine if we all gave a little of our time to take care of Those People. How would the world be different? How would we be different? Goodness, what on Earth would we argue about online and around the Thanksgiving Day table?
Hmm…this taking care of people with our own personal time and attention is sounding more and more appealing with each day of Lent, isn’t it?