"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink..."
Matthew 25 is a wonderful place to start our Lent journey because of its loving vision of care for others. Jesus' words have such power to them because in a few simple sentences, he gives us our marching orders as Christians. How are we to live? By feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting those in prison.
Are we squirming yet? I am. I can look at the list, a list given to me by Jesus and know I am falling short. I give money to various programs to help the poor and I send cards to those who are sick. But am I really caring for them in a deeply personal way? Does my busy-ness or my fear keep me at a distance? Closing that distance is exactly what Jesus offer us in Matthew 25.
This gospel is quite personal for Jesus as he identifies with the poor and marginalized. He doesn't say they were hungry or they were sick or unwelcome. He says, I was hungry, naked, unwelcome and in prison. Jesus fully identifies with those who are hungry and on the margins. It gives us a message of humility as well as care and as Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J. has said the message of this Gospel leads to a place of personal connection with the poor. "Humility is that downward mobility and it leads to a place of solidarity with the poor and the outcasts. There is no distance, it’s a one-ness." He adds that it's a humility that never wants to have any distance between Jesus and the poor. Those of us who want to put a distance between ourselves and the struggling might say, 'He was in jail and you visited him.'
But those are not the words Jesus gives us. She was not a stranger and someone else welcomed her. He was not imprisoned or sick and other people visited.
Jesus is clear and I'm not sure I want to read it exactly as he said it: I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was ill and you cared for me.
Dear Jesus, give me the courage to follow you more closely this Lent. Let the weeks ahead be focused on those who need my food, healing and welcome. Let me love you by loving those you put in my path each day who need my help. Let me not hide behind the distance I want to put between those on the margins and myself.
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