What have you done for me lately?
Some see Christ only as a social revolutionary, overturning the oppressive structures of human injustice and exalting those who are poor and downcast.
Some Christians see Christ only as a stern judge, who will cast unrepentant sinners into Hell.
Today’s readings on the Feast of Christ the King remind us that Christ is all of the above and more.
The dominant image in these readings, especially the Gospel (Matthew 25:31-46), is the image of Christ as judge. But the criteria by which he condemns is not the common laundry list of personal sins. He judges, rather, on the basis of personal compassion.
'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.'
Make no mistake: the usual suspects of personal sin are still on the table, but personal purity does not excuse one from the deeper obligations of personal charity.
Likewise, caring for those in need and working for social justice does not allow one to neglect the basic demands of religion and morality.
(You) have neglected the weightier matters of the law,
justice and mercy and faith;
these you ought to have done,
without neglecting the others.
This reality of Christ as judge, who demands care for the poor and the outcast, is in perfect harmony with the reality of Christ as the loving Good Shepherd.
The Lord indeed loves us totally and is wonderfully gentle with us, but if this love is not passed on to others, it will die.
As St. John says (1 John 3:17):
If someone who has worldly means
sees a brother in need
and refuses him compassion,
how can the love of God remain in him?
And if we let the love of God die within us, so also dies all hope, all life, all light.
We need not let the love of God die. We can and must pass it on. Therefore, we should take our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel as an invitation and as a guide.
- What can you and I – as individuals and as groups – do for those who are hungry: both the physically hungry and the spiritually hungry around us and around the world?
- What can you and I – as individuals and as groups – do for the strangers among us: the people who are not like us, the people who are not from this place, the people who do not think as we do?
- What can you and I – as individuals and as groups – do for those who lack basic essentials such as clothing and shelter?
- What can you and I – as individuals and as groups – do for the sick or for prisoners?
Writing a check is not enough. Advocating particular political solutions – either in a liberal or in a conservative framework – is not enough.
Both of these things
are worth doing as much as possible, but...
the full flowering of Christ’s love
within our hearts and souls
demands personal involvement.
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 the least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
* * * * *
Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you
from the foundation of the world.