MT 25: 31-46
We know that Jesus is REALLY PRESENT in the Eucharist, but He is also ‘really present’ in the poor. For we read. “What so ever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters that you do unto me.” So whatever we do toward the poor, it’s not as if we were doing it to the Lord. We are doing it to Him. Jesus is really present in the hungry, naked, lonely, and sick and those in prison. So any good we do, we do it to Jesus himself.
This passage of Matthew is taken from the last of the “great sermons” of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. The JBC describes this passage as a master piece, the high point and grand finale of last of Matthew’s five discourses. When the sermon ends, the very next paragraph is the beginning of the Passion Narrative. This is Jesus farewell message to the masses, his last sermon of his public ministry, and his personal appeal to us to prepare ourselves, if we wish to enter the kingdom. The list that Jesus enumerates contains six of the seven corporal acts of mercy (the one missing is the burial of the dead) .
When you look at the life of Jesus, it is clear that he made a ‘preferential option for the poor’; a recurring theme in the Gospels. Mother Teresa often said that the Gospel can be summarized in five words; ‘you- did- it-unto- me’. These humble words, each not exceeding four letters of the alphabet, carry the strongest message, not only of Christian almsgiving but love in action.
Jesus’ call to almsgiving is not a mere distribution of one’s wealth. When Jesus is criticized by the Pharisees because he did not follow their customs of ritually cleansing the cup and dishes before eating, he responds by saying that if they really wanted to be cleansed, they should give away the contents of those vessels: “Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil…But as to what is within, give alms, and behold everything will be clean for you (Luke 11:39-41)
Jesus knows the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. He confronts our hearts this Lent. No more ‘bypasses’! Perhaps this time we may have to submit to an ‘open heart surgery’. This is why the prophet Joel called us to rend our hearts, not merely our garments. If our Lenten season is to be a heart moving experience then our alms giving must be more than a few coins.
Fr Warner D’Souza
With much help from the ‘little black book’.