A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place 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.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”
Do you long to see Him? The blessed are you, because you will see Him.
You will see the face of God every day.
You will see Him in every place that you go and everything that you do, where there are other people. You will see Him on the news, peeking out at you from a tent in a refugee camp, cringing under the blows of a police officer or unconscious in a hospital bed. You will see Him on social media, sharing a gofundme or complaining unwisely in a tweet. You will see Him on your way to work or to run your errands, standing on a traffic island with a cardboard sign. You will see Him in your family and your co-workers whenever they have a need. You will see Him begging outside your church. You will have to step around the shopping cart He’s using to carry His belongings.
You will see His eyes, and they will haunt you. You will hear His voice, and it will torment you. You will smell Him and it will spoil your appetite. You will read about Him and it will break your heart. Those things are not optional. God appears to all of us. He cannot bear to be away from us. He always visits His children.
What you do with this visitation, is up to you.
If you wish to be blessed by the Father, you will go and take care of Him. Not once, at one time of the year when it’s heartwarming and convenient, and consider that enough. You will always be ready to take care of Him. You will spend your days attentive to notice Him whenever He comes to you, and to constantly ask yourself, “how can I serve Him? How can I open my home to Him? How can I give some of my time to Him? Do I have any clothes or food, money or time, a listening ear or a moment to write a letter? When He appears to me, what will I be able to do to honor Him?”
And when the Son of Man comes in glory, He will say to you, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” And you will go with Him into eternal life.
Of course, you can also say “no.”
That’s something you are allowed to do, and He won’t stop you.
He won’t deny you His presence, of course. He couldn’t. He loves you too much. He will continue to appear to you, on the news and on social media and on the sides of roads, outside your church and in the street, in your family and your place of work, and everywhere you go. He will continue to give you chances to be in communion with Him, and you can choose to decline. You’re free to do that if you wish.
You are free to turn away from Him. You are free to tell Him that His Passion and death are the result of His bad choices, and He’ll have to bootstrap Himself out of them. You have the prerogative to call the police to remove the beggar from the church door or from the side of the road, so you won’t have to see or hear or smell Him or walk around His things. You’re allowed to flee into the “safe” neighborhood where people like Him don’t go. You can besiege yourself against Him; you can lock the doors of your gated community and insulate yourself inside your house. You can turn off the computer and the television. You can close your eyes and stop your ears and tell yourself you don’t see Him.
Once in awhile you might even come out of this stupor and deposit a quick donation into a beggar’s cup or to your favorite charity, and then shut your eyes again. And because you’re so unused to serving Him, you might consider that extremely generous of you. You might call yourself a very good Christian. And then you’ll lock your door and block out your senses again, and go back to fleeing Christ.
You’re allowed to do that.
And then, when the Son of Man comes in glory, all you’ll be able to do is what you’ve done your whole life. You will turn away from glory, flee it, cover your ears, and depart from Him. There is only one place you can go after that. It’s the place you’ve been desperately trying to get to all along, and it will not be denied to you.
If you long to see Him, then blessed are you.
God is everywhere present and filling all things: most of all, in the people around us. Everyone sees the face of God. Everyone hears His voice. That is normal. That does not make you blessed by the Father.
If you want to be blessed by the Father, you will have to serve the Son.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross.
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