SABBATH REFLECTION - Matthew 25:31-46 - 22nd November, 2020
When we speak of the ‘Christ’ we must understand this Christ is much more than a Christian belief or a Christian construct. It is not about converting people to Christianity. It is not about Christ being FOR some and not others. For too long we have caged the Christ into our own narrow vision. We even claimed that not to believe in Christ was punishable with hell. These erroneous notions of the Christ are crying out to be transformed and we must see the ‘hell’ we create when we believe and behave in such a way.
The Christ is in, through, and with everyone and everything: every grain of sand, every star in the sky and EVERY HUMAN BEING. Regardless of what you say you believe in or don’t believe in, the Christ if fully PRESENT. ‘I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.’ We are so slow and resistant to understand and believe this. We would rather cage the Christ into our own narrow belief system. We fail to trust.
Let’s look a little closer and reflect which side of the fence we may stand using some of Pope Francis’ reflections in his latest encyclical letter ‘Fratelli Tutti’ alongside some of the questions today’s Gospel raises for us all:
WHO IS HUNGRY AROUND US AND WHO DO WE FEED?
‘Let us admit for all the progress we have made, we are still “illiterate” when it comes to accompanying, caring for and supporting the most frail and vulnerable members of our developed societies. We have become accustomed to looking the other way, passing by, ignoring situations until they affect us directly.’ #64
‘What is more, caught up as we are with our own needs, the sight of a person who is suffering disturbs us. It makes us uneasy, since we have no time to waste on other people’s problems. These are symptoms of an unhealthy society. A society that seeks prosperity but turns its back on suffering.’ #65
WHO IS THIRSTY AROUND US AND HOW DO WE REACH OUT TO THEM?
‘Now there are only two kinds of people: those who care for someone who is hurting and those who pass by; those who bend down to help and those who look the other way and hurry off. Here, all our distinctions, labels and masks fall away: it is the moment of truth. Will we bend down to touch and heal the wounds of others? Will we bend down and help another to get up? This is today’s challenge, and we should not be afraid to face it. In moments of crisis, decisions become urgent. It could be said that, here and now, anyone who is neither a robber nor a passer-by is either injured himself or bearing an injured person on his shoulders.’ #70
WHO ARE THE STRANGERS NEEDING OUR ATTENTION AND CARE?
‘We have certain ancestral fears that technological development has not succeeded in eliminating; indeed, those fears have been able to hide and spread behind new technologies. Today too, outside the ancient town walls lies the abyss, the territory of the unknown, the wilderness. Whatever comes from there cannot be trusted, for it is unknown, unfamiliar, not part of the village. It is the territory of the “barbarian”, from whom we must defend ourselves at all costs. As a result, new walls are erected for self-preservation, the outside world ceases to exist and leaves only “my” world, to the point that others, no longer considered human beings possessed of an inalienable dignity, become only “them”. Once more, we encounter “the temptation to build a culture of walls, to raise walls, walls in the heart, walls on the land, in order to prevent this encounter with other cultures, with other people. And those who raise walls will end up as slaves within the very walls they have built. They are left without horizons, for they lack this interchange with others.” #27
WHAT IS MY ATTITUDE TO THE ‘POOR’ THE ‘SICK’ AND THE ‘IMPRISONED’?
‘In today’s world, the sense of belonging to a single human family is fading, and the dream of working together for justice and peace seems an outdated utopia. What reigns instead is a cool, comfortable and globalised indifference, born of deep disillusionment concealed behind a deceptive illusion; thinking that we are all-powerful, while failing to realise that we are all in the same boat. This illusion, unmindful of the great fraternal values, leads to “a sort of cynicism. For that is the temptation we face if we go down the road of disenchantment and disappointment…. Isolation and withdrawal into one’s own interests are never the way to restore hope and bring about renewal. Rather, it is closeness; it is the culture of encounter. Isolation no; closeness, yes. Culture clash, no; culture of encounter, yes”’ #30
Francis leaves us with this beautiful reflection on HOPE in our troubled and often confusing times:
‘I invite everyone to renewed hope,
for hope “speaks to us of something deeply rooted in every human heart,
independently of our circumstances and historical conditioning.
Hope speaks to us of a thirst, an aspiration,
a longing for a life of fulfilment, a desire to achieve great things,
things that fill our heart and lift our spirit to lofty realities
like truth, goodness and beauty, justice and love….
HOPE IS BOLD
it can look beyond personal convenience,
the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon,
and it can open us up to grand ideals that make life for beautiful and worthwhile.”
Let us continue, then, to advance along the paths of hope.’ #55
Francis keeps the Cosmic and Universal Christ alive for us.