Mathew 25:44
“…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?’”
To be honest with you, I found this Gospel reading very difficult this year. One of the things that I found noteworthy reading it this time is that the King is not angry. He is giving a judgment based on his expectations of right living, but he is not angry. The fact that the goats would not live up to what he called them to – what he calls everyone to – is a heartache, but he is not angry. What the Gospel story today tells us is that the King is judging with righteousness, but not with anger.
This is what I found difficult. I want to be angry at people who fail to help those in need. And it runs throughout every aspect of our society. From liberals who are against life in the womb – to others who are against the elderly who they see as no longer productive and should be “put out of their misery” – to conservatives who want to put so many restrictions on immigration, which is a human right – to a selfishness that has infected so much of our society that Christian values are not welcome in the public sphere.
There is throughout our society a lack of respect for the dignity of the human person. And getting angry at those who do not respect the dignity of the human person is denying THEIR dignity.
But the King calls us to something very different. Yes, he calls them accursed. But listen to his other response to their question: “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” When I heard that as I was preparing for this weekend, I did not hear a wrathful, angry response. What I heard was a disappointment.
God is disappointed when we do not make an effort to reach those who are lost. How can we avoid that for ourselves? The first, and most important way in which we can avoid this is by prayer. Now, more than ever, our country is in need of people who are willing to pray for the country.
We have seen the results of the anger in other cities with the riots and the destruction that has been so devastating. We have seen the near hell on earth that selfishness causes, especially over the last few months. It is not going to be cured by an election and a change of leadership. This selfishness is part of the systemic disregard for the dignity of the human person, for the dignity of the other.
This is the last weekend of the church year. Advent starts next weekend and is a season intending to us call to holiness. Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” His warning there and in the gospel today is not one of angry condemnation, but is a warning calling for conversion. That quote from Jesus could be read in two different ways: one with anger, the other with compassion.
We are called to the same mission of Christ. We are called to issue a warning cry for conversion. We are not called to do so in anger. We are called to do so in hopes of bringing about a conversion to holiness. There is a definite and definitive holiness that God expects from us. There are certain things that are righteous and unrighteous. There are certain things that are intrinsically right and wrong.
Yes, there are other things that are prudential judgments that can go in different directions. We need the discernment of the Holy Spirit to understand what is called for in our world today.
But what is MOST NECESSARY is to recognize that the judgment of the King is righteous, holy, and filled with compassion. In our time his compassion has to be in the front of our minds for the sake of those who may find themselves called accursed by the King. We have political leaders in our country who, by their words and actions to date, show themselves in danger of being judged worthy of following Satan into hell.
As long as they are alive they have a chance to repent. It is up to us to stand for the sake of righteousness in prayer for those who seem to be in trouble. We may not ever be in a place where we can speak to them. We may not have an opportunity to try to draw them to conversion. But we can, right where we are, pray for the conversion of their souls.
I do not know if we can be successful; they have their own free will. But what I do know is that I cannot continue to hold onto the anger at the foolish way people are ignoring the dignity of the human person. There are plenty of reasons to be angry at almost every one of the elected officials in our country, regardless of their affiliations.
As for myself, and – I believe – all who believe in Jesus, the call is really very simple. Pray. Pray for those who do not show understanding of this gospel, and the call to care for all: from conception to natural death – immigrant, refugee, the stranger – the wounded, the battered, the abandoned – but most of all, those who do not show a deep compassion for all those in need.
“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?” We know Jesus’ response. I believe it is a response of anguish. Can we – can you – dare to not respond with the same anguish as is in the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Our king is calling us to respond. Are you ready? May the compassion of Christ reign in each of our hearts. Long live Christ the King!