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A TRUE MEASURE OF LIFE FOR US

Father Francis's picture
First Week of Lent

Lev. 19:1-2, 11-18 & Mt. 25:31-46.

We shall all have to face the final judgement. On what will we be judged? Both today's readings make it clear that we must love our neighbour as we love ourselves, and at our trial we shall have to show evidence of having done this.
Moses stresses some of the things that we must not do to our neighbour. We must not steal from him, slander him, bear a grudge against him. We must not exploit employees or show contempt for the disabled. We would not like to be treated in this way ourselves, so why treat others like this?

But Jesus goes further than this. He says that it is not enough to refrain from ill-treating our neighbour. We must take positive steps to help them when he or she is in need. When He comes to judge us, we shall be divided, like sheep from goats, according to the way in which we have responded to the needs of those around us.

We are not being asked to do spectacular things, but to be aware of the many small ways in which we can help our neighbour. We may have the opportunity to support the hungry, to show hospitality to a stranger, to provide clothing to the poor, or to visit a prisoner or a hospital patient. This is how we would like to be treated if we found ourselves in need of help. Are we like the sheep in the parable, constantly aware of the sufferings of other people, or are we like the goats, completely indifferent to what is going on around us?

Jesus reminds us that whatever we do to others we are doing to Him. When we fail to give help to others, we are neglecting Him. In His parable both the sheep and the goats are surprised at the evidence presented. For the sheep it was natural to behave in a loving way to all who needed them. They were not doing anything extraordinary and had not expected a reward. The goats, on the other hand, had gone through life carelessly and selfishly, totally unaware of the people who were crying out for help. It simply had not occurred to them that there was anything they could do, and they were not expecting punishment.

Jesus' message to us today is, "You say you love Me. Show your love for Me by loving My brothers and sisters in their need.” This is something we can all do, every day of our lives. It will be the only defence we can offer at that final trial. If we are judged to have loved generously, the reward will be a place in the kingdom which God has prepared for us. We shall receive all the love we have given, and far more. If we are found to be lacking in love, we shall have to face the punishment of exclusion from God's presence. We shall go to a place where there is no love, all because we omitted to love our neighbour in small ways.

At this moment Jesus would say to all of us, "Today go and look for Me. You won't need to go very far. You will find Me in the poor, the hungry and the sick."

At this moment Jesus would say to all of us, "Today, on leaving church, go and look for Me. You won't need to go very far. You will find Me in the poor, the hungry and the sick."
Holy Spirit, inspire me to live a life in which I demonstrate, each day, that I understand the importance of Jesus' commandment to love my neighbour.

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