· Meditation ·
This is Jesus’ last preaching before his Passion. He speaks to us of love for our neighbour being one with love for the Lord.
In a sort of parable Jesus tells those who want to follow him in order to live with him where to find him during the long span of historical time as they await his second coming.
When the Son of man comes he will judge each one on the love he or she has shown to his or her neighbour in need. We will not be judged on anything else – not on our faith, not on our hope and even less on our religious affiliation, but only on the one and multiple fruit to which the whole of the Revelation is ordained: on love, on our making ourselves close to those who are in need.
And the neediness that afflicts the poor, like the love that goes to their rescue, is recounted in a precise and concrete way and is repeated in the text with hammering insistence to indicate that in God’s eyes this is the thing that counts in history and in the world: the hunger of starving people, the thirst of the thirsty, the multiform poverty and humiliation of foreigners, the cold and shame and loneliness of those who are naked, in prison, ill or abandoned.
In all Scripture this painful wretchedness is the ceaseless cry that the Lord hears rising from the earth, just as he heard the silent cry of Abel’s blood, the cry of Sodom where hospitality was betrayed and foreigners exploited, the cry of Ishmael’s thirst, of Hagar’s despair, the cry of Egypt, where Israel was crushed by slavery. And since this cry of anguish has never ceased to rise to heaven, the Lord visited us, coming among us both human and poor in the man Jesus who, like us, was exposed to suffering.
And the Son of man is proclaimed in the act of revealing who it was that loved him, because he is the Incarnation of the compassionate God and the Servant of the Lord who suffered and took upon himself as his own torments, tribulations and wounds the anguish of all suffering human beings, to the point of identifying himself with them. Today the full connection is revealed to us, in history and beyond, between the humiliated bodies of poor people and the body of the Lord, between his face and theirs. They are the limbs of his body. And it is with these prophetic words that Jesus makes the poor and the least for ever the most precious and demanding presence for his men and women disciples, their daily magisterium in order to share with him in this world and in the world to come. The response to those who are weak becomes the criterion by which to discern in ourselves, in the Church and in the world every cruel project and action, since cruelty, which is idolatry, always has as its heart and as its fruit indifference and hatred for people who are weak, poor or foreigners, and who are always deemed unimportant.
The Scriptures testify to us that the right of the Lord our God coincides with the right of our neighbour in need, for it is the Lord himself in the person of the poor who waits for our help and for us to share what we are and have. Thus anyone who humiliates and ignores a poor person humiliates and ignores the Lord. The Lord gives his own voice and his own face to the poor of the whole of history and reveals the blessedness of those who have gone to their aid and the unhappiness of those who have not. It is very disturbing that the forms of violence and abuse which we humans are able to inflict on people weaker than ourselves and with which the Bible is indeed familiar, are not even named here. Failure to give assistance suffices to reveal people to be wicked and wholly alien to the Lord. On the day of the Last Judgement no one will speak of the poverty and the tormenting need that he or she has suffered because the Lord will make himself the voice of all this suffering, showing it to be his own suffering, God’s suffering. But without exception all of us will be recognized for our attention and response, offered or denied, to the suffering of our neighbours, to their hunger, thirst, nakedness and shame, to their marginalization and humiliation, to the affliction they are suffering.
Once again Jesus teaches us that it is not our suffering that saves us but always and only love.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 21, 2018
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