Thursday, March 8, 2012

40 Days of Virtue: She Responds

She extends a helping hand to the poor 
and opens her arms to the needy.
~Proverbs 31:20

Just in case we didn't get it the first time, this verse merits repeating. The dangers of missing the point here are radical! Especially when we hear the words of Jesus on this subject, our pretty little pink ears should really perk up, as well as our hearts. 

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus shares a parable, a story with a biblically based outcome. The story describes the day of judgment and the type of person that will enter the Kindgom of Heaven. He divides people into just two categories: sheep and goats. I can tell you this: you don't want to be a goat in this story

Jesus distinguishes the sheep and the goats by one criteria: by their response to the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, and estranged people of the world. In other words, by our response to those who are poor and in need. 

For the sake of impact, Jesus places Himself in the story line as the person in need. After separating the sheep from the goats, He invites the sheep "into the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world"(verse 34). And this is His justification for those He has chosen for the kingdom:
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
I can just imagine this group of  people entering heaven, looking back at people in the other group, people they knew and loved who were still awaiting judgement. They were a bit confused and wondering, "When did I do all these things? When did I see Jesus other than right here and now?" And so, they asked, "When did we see you? When did we do this?"

And Jesus replied,
"I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
And this is the real kicker of the story, the Truth that He wants to reveal to us. He turns to the people who remain, the "goats", and says,
"Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels...whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. Then they go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." 
Puts a whole new perspective on Jesus' command to "Love the Lord our God with all our heart" and "Love our neighbor as ourself", doesn't it? You can't really love without getting your hands dirty, getting into the trenches, getting your wallet out, getting involved in the emotional, spiritual, physical needs of others. Feeling sorry for someone isn't enough. We must do something about it!

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.


O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen


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