“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“2012: The Year of the Lord’s Return”
Thanks to the lectionary we began our New Year with the end in mind. Not just the end of the New Year but the end of time. Our text from the Gospel of Matthew offers us the last words of Jesus’ last discourse, and they are a description of the end of time or the “Day of Judgment,” and what a description they are!
The first thing I noted about the images presented here is the sense of surprise that’s expressed by both those who “get it right” and those who (for lack of a better term) find themselves on “the short end of the judgment stick.” I have no doubt this will be the case for many when this fateful day does arrive. It’s kind of comforting to know that despite all those among us who swear up and down they know about the day, the hour and even who will be judged worthy of eternal life and eternal damnation our God is a God of surprises to the very end. And what a surprise is presented here.
Jesus says that when we stand before the judgment seat we won’t be asked about our church attendance, nor our prayer practices, or the lack thereof. He doesn’t say there will be a list of our sexual misadventures or our political affiliations. No! What will matter on that day is how we chose to treat those around us who are left out, or in need, for a variety of reasons … lack, homelessness, poverty, illness and imprisonment. He presses his point by saying that the way we treat these folks ultimately says something very important about our relationship with him. In essence he says, “The way you treat these folks is the way you treat me.”
As I read and reread this text the phrase that came to me is “we must see Jesus in others if we are to be Jesus for others.” What this means is that in order to bring healing to another’s life we must first be willing to see healing in them, this is what Jesus did. The carpenter from Nazareth chose to look beyond the gore, the gloom, the grit and grime present in folks’ lives and see all the way to God’s glory present in each of them. These included those who were ill, the outcasts of society, those in high places as well as his closest companions, the disciples. He accepted, and capitalized on the fact, that the good (the God) that was in him was also present in every person he met, no matter where they found themselves in life. In this closing message in Matthew he says if we are to experience heaven (the Kindom of God) we must be willing to do the same.
If you’d like to see a picture of what this “seeing Jesus and being Jesus” can look like I invite you to visit The Forgiveness Project. Here you will be given a glimpse into the amazing story of Azim Khamisa. I pray none of us are called to go through the pain and grief he has experienced. I also pray that we may follow his example and seek to “overcome evil with good,” or as Jesus puts it “do for me by doing for one of the least of these.”
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
Living Faith: This week I invite you to experience at least one opportunity to “see Jesus in and be Jesus for” someone you may know or come across. A personal example from my own life: I’m aware of someone who is in jail that has been a part of our community and it’s my intention to visit him before this week has ended. I look forward to hearing your testimony after you embody God’s grace for “one of the least of these.”
People Need the Lord