Monday, February 18, 2013
1) Opening prayer
Lord, holy God, loving Father,
you give us the task to love one another
because you are holy
and you have loved us before we could love you.
Give us the ability to recognize your Son
in our brothers and sisters far and near.
Make us witnesses that love exists and is alive
and that you, the God of love,
exist and are alive now for ever.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 25, 31-46
'When the Son of man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All nations will be assembled before him and he will separate people one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right hand, "Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take as your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me."
Then the upright will say to him in reply, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome, lacking clothes and clothe you? When did we find you sick or in prison and go to see you?"
And the King will answer, "In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me." Then he will say to those on his left hand, "Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food, I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink, I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, lacking clothes and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me." Then it will be their turn to ask, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or lacking clothes, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?" Then he will answer, "In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me." And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the upright to eternal life.'
• The Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus, the New Messiah. Like Moses, Jesus also promulgates the Law of God. As the Ancient Law, the new one, given by Jesus, also contains five books or discourses. The Sermon on the Mountain (Mt 5, 1 to 7, 27), the first discourse opens with eight Beatitudes. The discourse on vigilance (Mt 24, 1 to 25, 46), the fifth discourse, contains the description of the Last Judgment. The Beatitudes describe the door of entrance into the Kingdom, enumerating eight categories of persons: the poor in spirit, the meek, the afflicted, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted because of justice (Mt 5, 3-10). The parable of the Last Judgment tells us what we should do in order to possess the Kingdom: accept the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigners, the naked, the sick and the prisoners (Mt 25, 35-36): At the beginning as well as at the end of the New Law, there are the excluded and the marginalized.
• Matthew 25, 31-33: Opening of the Last Judgment. The Son of Man gathers together around him the nations of the world. He separates the persons as the shepherd does with the sheep and the goats. The shepherd knows how to discern. He does not make a mistake; sheep on the right, goats on the left. Jesus does not make a mistake. Jesus does not judge nor condemn. (cfr. Jn 3, 17; 12, 47). He hardly separates. It is the person himself/herself who judges and condemns because of the way in which he/she behaves toward the little ones and the excluded.
• Matthew 25, 34-36: The sentence for those who are at the right hand of the Judge. Those who are at the right hand of the judge are called “Blessed of my Father!”, that is, they receive the blessing which God promised to Abraham and to his descendants (Gen 12, 3). They are invited to take possession of the Kingdom, prepared for them from the foundation of the world. The reason for the sentence is the following: “I was hungry, a foreigner, naked, sick and prisoner, and you accepted me and helped me!” This sentence makes us understand who are the sheep. They are the persons who accepted the Judge when he was hungry, thirsty, a foreigner, naked, sick and prisoner. And because of the way of speaking “my Father” and “the Son of Man”, we can know that the Judge is precisely Jesus Himself . He identifies himself with the little ones!
• Matthew 25, 37-40: A request for clarification and the response of the Judge: Those who accept the excluded are called “just”. That means that the justice of the Kingdom is not attained by observing norms and prescriptions, but rather by accepting those in need. But it is strange that the just do not even know themselves when they accepted Jesus in need. And Jesus responds: “Every time that you have done this to one of my brothers, you have done it to me”. Who are these little brothers of mine?” In other passages of the Gospel of Matthew, the expression “my brothers” and “the smallest brothers” indicates the disciples (Mt 10, 42; 12, 48-50; 18, 6.10.14; 28, 10). This also indicates the members of the community who are more abandoned and neglected who have no place and are not well received (Mt 10, 40). Jesus identifies himself with them. But not only this. In the broader context of the last parable, the expression “my smallest brothers” is extended and includes all those who have no place in society. It indicates all the poor. And the “just” and the “blessed by my Father” are all the persons from all nations who accept, welcome others with total gratuity, independently of the fact that they are Christians or not.
• Matthew 25, 41-43: The sentence for those who were at the left hand side. Those who were on the other side of the Judge are called “cursed” and they are destined to go to the eternal fire, prepared by the devil and his friends. Jesus uses a symbolical language common at that time to say that these persons will not enter into the Kingdom. And here, also, the reason is only one: they did not accept, welcome Jesus hungry, thirsty, a foreigner, naked, sick and prisoner. It is not that Jesus prevents them from entering into the Kingdom, rather it is our way of acting, that is our blindness which prevents us from seeing Jesus in the little ones.
• Matthew 25, 44-46: A request for clarification and the response of the Judge. The request for clarification indicates that it is a question of people who have behaved well, persons who have their conscience in peace. They are certain to have always practiced what God asked from them. For this reason they were surprised when the Judge says that they did not accept him, did not welcome him. The Judge responds: “Every time that you have not done these things to one of my brothers, the little ones, you did not do it to me”. It is the omission! They did not do anything extra. They only missed practicing good towards the little ones and the excluded. This is the way the fifth Book of the New Law ends!
4) Personal questions
• What struck you the most in this parable of the Last Judgment?
• Stop and think: if the Last Judgment would take place today, would you be on the side of the sheep or on the side of the goats?
5) Concluding Prayer
The precepts of Yahweh are honest,
joy for the heart;
the commandment of Yahweh is pure,
light for the eyes. (Ps 19,8)