In All Things: Jesus calls us to ‘touch’ him by embracing those in need
Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 25:31-46), on today, the Solemnity of Christ the King, is rich in the imagery of what the Last Judgment just might look like. The reading also presents fine words for reflection as we enter into this week of Thanksgiving.
When we think of royalty, we vision magnificent kings and queens, lavishly draped in lush velvet and soft ermine, dripping with jewels, wielding scepter and conveying great power. Contrast this image with that of Jesus - a non-pretentious simple son of a carpenter who travels the countryside in robe and sandals along with his entourage of fishermen…a man destined to wear thorns for a crown. Hardly the stuff of which kings are made!
However, which of the two do you think has a better grasp of what is real in the world? The one barricaded by his material wealth, sitting much too high on his proverbial throne to appreciate the common man? Or the one never afraid to enter into the muck of life and get his hands dirty?
Jesus was like no king we’ve ever experienced. The goal of this monarch was not to conquer through fear and violence but rather through love and compassion. How mighty is that!
In a column I write for one of the local secular papers, I recently asked people what they were grateful for. One woman told me that, with a sense of gratitude for what she and her family have, she was cultivating being more able to notice the “ordinary” in life that we so often overlook.
Among that ordinary are those who Jesus calls us to remember as he sits on his judgment throne. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”
Have you ever noticed that when Jesus wants to emphasis what is important, he repeats himself? In this case, he does it four times. I think that’s a fairly good sign we need to sit up and take notice.
It’s easy to recognize what is obvious in our Lord’s words but look again for what is less apparent…what are the many things people can hunger for? What is the cup from which others long to drink? Who present as “strangers” in our life? Look for the ones who always seem to be on the outside looking in. Physical illness is one thing but what about emotional and spiritual illness? How many, living right under our noses, are “imprisoned” by sickness, fear, old age, all longing for a human touch?
While Jesus walked the earth, relatively few were blessed to be able to reach out and touch his face, hold his hand, sit in his presence or feel his embrace. But you see, Jesus is telling us we can touch him in a very real way.
This Thanksgiving, we gather with gratitude with those we love around tables groaning with plenty, but maybe we are also being called to be mindful of those who suffer with so little. It would be a start…a way to truly touch our King…a way to motivate us to be more aware of what goes unseen in our eyes. Maybe we will begin to reach out more…begin bringing more love and peace into our world.
This is what we are being asked to consider and it’s no accident it comes in relation to how we will be judged on that last day: “As often as you have done this to the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done it to me.”