First Reading: Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
WE SHALL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE
Today’s readings remind us that we shall be held accountable for what we do and what we don’t do to and for our neighbors. And neighbors is not to be understood in a restrictive sense but in the widest sense possible. When asked who is my neighbor, Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). My neighbor is every single person who inhabits Mother Earth – no exceptions.
Leviticus gives us a series of “You shall not” … steal, lie or speak falsely to one another; defraud or rob your neighbor …” The reading ends up with “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.” This is addressed to the ancient Israelites but this is very much intended for us today as we live in a society obsessed with getting revenge. These words are followed by, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The ancient Israelites had a very restrictive sense of neighbor, but Jesus gives the widest interpretation possible. There are no restrictions. And the love that Jesus speaks of is not based on feelings but on choice. Love is a choice that one makes for the good of another no matter what I feel about the other person.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples (meaning you and me today) that there will be a day of judgment for all humankind. We shall be judged on how we have responded to our brothers and sisters especially the most vulnerable: the hungry (think not only of food but of emotional sustenance and acceptance); the thirsty (think not only of water but of thirst for justice, a good education and the basics of life); the stranger (think of the millions fleeing violence and terrorism and those who don’t fit in for whatever reason); the naked (think not only of those who do not have sufficient clothing but also the homeless and those who live in sub-standard housing); the sick (not only the physically sick but those suffering from mental illnesses, addictive behaviors and abusive situations); the imprisoned (not only in jails but those locked into the self-imposed prison of unforgiveness); in effect, the suffering and the marginalized.
Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” And for those who have shut their eyes and blocked their ears to their brothers and sisters in need, Jesus will say, “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” The Gospel concludes with the words, “And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” It is not Jesus who condemns. We have free will; we can make choices. We do make choices. The truth is that the choices that we make judge us.
Brother Andre Mathieu, C.P.