Monday of the First Week of Lent
This Week’s Intention: That God may bless and protect all those who carry healing and peace to the poor, the outcast, and the forgotten people of the world.
Today’s Gospel | 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 reflecting on our need for repentance and renewal, it would be very hard to do so without examining our behavior toward others. Spiritual insight and social experience both tell us that any criteria for being a good person must include, if not begin with, treating one another well. However, there is a danger in this examination stopping at the level of whether or not we do it. It must move on to the level of us then realizing and making a critical connection.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus illustrates the connection. He uses the familiar image of divine final judgment to introduce a surprising image of what it means to love God. Teaching in a milieu where the further from social acceptance or power one was, the further from God one was judged to be, Jesus equated love of such persons with love of God. In a radical shift away from popular notions of the nature both of community and of God, Jesus quashed any thought that persons could be at one with God and not with each other. To love God is to extend his love to all, especially to those considered to be outside of the all. Not only are they to be included in the all, but they are, in fact, its true center.
Educator and author Felix Adler wrote, “To care for anyone else enough to make their problems one’s own, is ever the beginning of one’s real ethical development.” Knowing how to be ourselves depends greatly on discovering how completely we belong to each other. Ultimately, morality must serve as a litmus test for compassion, for how we choose to live into our responsibility for one another and into right relationship with one another and God. Lent is a time not only for contrition for how we may have neglected this responsibility, but also for becoming the kinds of persons for whom such neglect is simply never an option.
Eternal Father, you created in your image of compassion and mercy. Forgive us in those times when we are not faithful, when we take without giving, when we walk past the suffering and needs of others. Soften the hardness of our hearts and fill us with care for others and a desire to act justly. In this time of Lent, may we turn away from our sinfulness and return ourselves to you, always aware of your presence and always obedient to your will. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts forever.