Sunday Readings: Ezekiel 34.1-12,15-17; 1 Corinthians 15.20-26, 28; Matthew 25.31-46
“Holy One, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you were a stranger and welcome you or naked and give your clothing? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” – Matthew 25.37-39
The Church year culminates this Sunday and holds up Jesus Christ as the King and model leader of the human race. In Sunday’s gospel Jesus, the Son of Man, sits on a throne, the ultimate judge of the nations. Acting in the pastoral role of a shepherd, the king separates the sheep from the goats in his flock. He separates them on the basis of a single imperative: how they have treated the least. This king identifies not with the highest or grandest but with the least.
Jesus identifies with even the least among us. In becoming one of us, God’s Son identifies with all of us. How we treat the least among us becomes the measure of how we treat God’s Son. This theology reiterates the two great commandments that make love of God and love of neighbor inseparable. It is also the scriptural root of the Catholic social teaching to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
Matthew places this parable immediately before Jesus’ passion in the flow of the gospel narrative. In his passion Jesus himself becomes the least among us, suffering the kind of execution aimed to shame and subdue rebellious slaves. Sunday’s parable invites us to recognize Jesus in all those who suffer.
Who in your area needs the active mercy of people in your parish?