Gospel for Sunday, November 22: Matthew 25: 31-46
GOD WANTS TO BE LOVED IN THE POOR
31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 Before him all the nations will be gathered. He will separate one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you blessed of my Father, receive your inheritance of the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world, 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to visit you?”.
40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I say to you, whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did to me.” 41 Then he will also say to those on the left, “Away from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44 They too will then answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not serve you?” 45 Then he will answer them, “Truly I say to you, whatever you did not do to one of the least of these, you did not do to me.” 46 And they shall go away: these to eternal torment, and the righteous to eternal life.
Mt 25: 31-46
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it). Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
God, in Scripture, has a very particular “God dot”. The biblical God is not so interested in being honored for himself, he does not like cults and liturgies; God has a great passion: to be loved in brothers. Our neighbor must be loved because whatever is done or not done to him is done or not done to God. This mysterious identification is forcefully proposed as a yardstick in social relationships: “Whoever oppresses the poor offends his Creator, whoever has pity on the miserable honors him” (Pr 14,31); “Whoever mocks the poor offends his Creator” (Pr 17,5).
In today’s Gospel it is reiterated that the Lord identifies himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner (Mt 25,31-46); “For anyone who does not love his brother whom he sees cannot love God whom he does not see. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21).
Wonderful is the page that Augustine (354-430), the holy bishop of Hippo, writes, commenting on the refusal of the rich young man to give his goods to the poor (Lk 18,18-23): “Perhaps if the Lord had expressly asked for the rich young man to entrust his possessions directly to him, a good Master, he would also have accepted…; but he heard the invitation to give to the poor… and so he remained perplexed, confused. Let no one hesitate to give to the poor; let no one think that it is the one whose hand he sees who receives. In reality he receives the one whom he ordered to give.”
Clement of Alexandria (150-215) says: “If someone appears poor or ragged or ugly or sick to you…, do not retreat…; within this body live in secret the Father and the Son of him who died for us and was resurrected with us.” When the great French philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was on the verge of death – his sister Gilberte tells us in the “Life of Pascal” -, unable to receive Holy Communion, he asked for a poor man to be brought before him, to venerate Christ himself in him . The poor are a sacrament of God, they are God present in the world.
James writes in his letter: “Judgment will be without mercy against those who have not shown mercy; mercy, however, always prevails in judgment. What does it profit, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Perhaps that faith can save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and without daily food and one of you says to them: “Go in peace, be warm and satisfied”, but do not give them the necessary things for the body, what good is it? So too is faith: if it does not have works, it is dead in itself (Jas 2:8-26).
The “entrance exam” to enter Paradise will focus on a single question: will we have given food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, a home to immigrants, clothes to the naked, care for the sick, solidarity for prisoners (Mt 25, 31-46)?
John Chrysostom writes: “The master and creator of the universe says: «I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat» (Mt 25,42)… Your Lord is out there, dying of hunger, and you abandon yourself to sins of gluttony! And not only is this terrible, but the fact that, abandoning yourself to greed, you calmly despise him, while what he really asks of you is little: a piece of bread to appease his hunger. He goes around numb with cold, you dress in silk and don’t even look at him, or show him compassion, but rather you push ahead ruthlessly. What forgiveness can such conduct deserve?”.
Pope Francis writes: “In chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew (vv. 31-46), Jesus returns to focus on a beatitude, the one that declares the merciful blessed. If we seek that holiness which is pleasing in the eyes of God, in this text we find a rule of behavior according to which we will be judged: “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (25,35-36)” (Gaudete et exsultate, n. 95). In their glorious history, the Mercies were born and continue to exist to embody this bliss which is the “golden rule” of Christian life.
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at email@example.com.