Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18
Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15
Every year at New Year’s, many of us make resolutions. We decide to do something that we have neglected, or to avoid something that has been a problem. The general idea is to become a better person. We decide upon New Year’s resolutions by reviewing our lives and deciding where we can improve and better ourselves. In the holy season of Lent, the Church encourages us to do something like that. We are encouraged to use the time of Lent to reform our lives and become better persons. With God’s help, we seek to transform the ways we think and act.
In today’s gospel reading, our Lord speaks to us about the last judgement. He uses here the analogy of the shepherd and his sheep since it was a familiar one to his listeners. Just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, at the last judgement God will separate the righteous from the accursed. Each of us likes to think we are righteous rather than accursed.
But do we really act like the righteous in today’s gospel? This is the question we must ask ourselves. And because this question is the same one we should be asking as we begin to reform our lives in Lent, this gospel reading is very appropriate for the beginning of Lent.
The heart of this long gospel reading is contained in the sentence: “Whatever you did to one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” A simple sentence, but it contains so much meaning. We are not always accustomed to being aware of or thinking about those less fortunate than ourselves, but they are all around us. Statistics from all over the world attest to the sad fact that there are millions of people living in absolute poverty. For many of us, these people are easy to ignore. We don’t have to see them or be aware of them unless we want to. But I think that’s what this gospel is saying. If we really want to be counted among the righteous, we need to see and be aware of those less fortunate than ourselves. But more than that, Christ is asking us to do something for them, to help them in some way. And that is what Lent is all about, reforming our lives in such a way as to become more aware of and try to help those less fortunate than us.
This seems simple enough, but it is a difficult thing to do. Perhaps the biggest hurdle we face is accustoming ourselves to think about helping others. To live in such a way that we try to be aware of and to help others. Our mutual human tendency is to think mainly of ourselves. It takes real effort to focus our attention on others and on helping them.
It seems to me that this gospel reading can serve as a guide for
us during Lent and help us to focus on reforming our lives in such a way
that we become more aware of and seek to help others.
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