34th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)
Sunday 26 November 2023
“And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life”.
(Matt 25:40, 45-46)
With the Feast of Passover (and Easter) imminent, Jesus instructs His disciples to keep an active and engaged vigil (staying awake) in anticipation of His return. His teaching concludes with the prophetic description of the famous “final” or “universal judgement”. This will come at the end of time, and will be a personal judgement, each according to his or her deeds. What are the criteria for this judgement? Jesus speaks of six deeds (or works): feeding the hungry, satisfying the thirsty, welcoming the stranger (or foreigner), giving clothes to those without, visiting the sick and visiting prisoners. These deeds differ somewhat from as the traditional works of mercy of Judaism. For example, burying the dead is omitted while the visitation of prisoners is included without specifying that the captive had to be unjustly imprisoned! These precisely are the deeds which will have an individual judged to be placed at the right, or unfortunately at the left, of the Son of Man.
But there’s more. In giving his motivation for sentence, Jesus adds, “because I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat…”. Those being judged are shocked: when have we ever seen you in these conditions? In His response Jesus identifies Himself with the smallest or the ‘least’, those who, – according to the mentality of the world – are considered as less worthy or totally worthless. He identifies with those who the world consider as a parasite on society… In some way, these people become an ‘almost sacrament’ of the presence of Jesus in the midst of us! Jesus is a king that demonstrates His regality through the needy. As king, He judges me by the law of love: the love I’ve shown towards my neighbour and the needy every day of my life and not just at the end of days.
So let’s prepare ourselves for this judgement, being attentive to discover the presence of Jesus in our sisters and brothers that we encounter every day, no matter how uncomfortable this is!This is the mystery, and seduction, of His presence!