Today’s reading, Matthew 25:31-46:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Today’s reading is Jesus at his most direct. There are some difficult issues in here about heaven and hell but that aside, the message Jesus is trying to get across is pretty clear.
Uncomfortable reading isn’t it?
I’m amazed by the richness in these Bible readings we’ve had so far: the theme of God choosing the humble, the unexpected, the ‘wrong’, the smallest and the least is coming out again and again.
This time I was struck by realising, reflecting on yesterday’s reading too, that not only does God choose the least to receive his message first (the last being first and the first last) – he actually becomes the Least. He becomes a weak, insignificant baby born in an occupied, troublesome backwater of the Roman empire.
So then we hear today’s reading and Jesus says ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ This is because Jesus IS the least and became the least for us. He is our great example, the embodiment of the character of God.
As Mother Teresa said of those she served:
“Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”
— Mother Teresa
I am going to pray for God to show me the ‘least’ who are around me, in my community, at work, in my city. Where is Jesus waiting for me to come with love to feed, clothe and comfort?