LOVE IN ACTION!
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Scripture Readings: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; Psalms 23: 1-2, 2-3, 5-6 (1); 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46
My dear encountered couples:
It is quite appropriate that on this last Sunday of the Church year our thoughts are directed towards the last judgment. But I expect that we will not have to wait until the end of the world for that to happen. The Church believes that we will face our own personal judgments the moment we die, or certainly soon after. Exactly how that judgment scene will be - no one really knows.
What Matthew has written of the description Jesus gave is believed by many to be symbolic of what will actually take place. But whether or not it is symbolic or an accurate description of what will happen, the teaching contained in what Jesus said is vitally important for us to pay attention to. And it is the carrying out of the teaching contained in his last judgment story that determines where we’ll spend eternity.
Jesus tells us that our eternity depends on our treatment of others. As you treat me, as I treat you, as we all treat one another – that is what makes us become the persons we will be by the time we die. Our treatment, our thoughts, our actions towards all the people in this world molds the quality of our character, our very self into being a good person or a bad one. Will you, will I become good, loving people by the time we leave this earth? Or will we be cold, unfeeling, and selfish? How we treat others determines this.
“Come,” Jesus will say to the good people. “You have my Father’s blessing! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me, in prison and you came to visit me.” Those sorts of things, Jesus tells us, are what form us into the kind of people who live in heaven. Those who don’t do these things for others join those who live in hell. “Out of my sight, you condemned, into that everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels!”
“Why?” we might ask. “Because,” Jesus tells us, “whatever you did for one of my least brothers, you did it for me.” “Whatever you neglected to do to one of these least ones, you neglected to do it to me.”
Yes, it is extremely important for us to listen to and act upon what Jesus is saying, to understand it, and remember it. For some people, though, maybe even for many of us, I think there is one person in particular we often forget to treat well. Can you guess who that person is? Think hard. Is it your wife, your husband, your mother or your father, your brother or sister? Is it your employees, your boss, your garbage man? Or is it someone among the homeless, the jobless, or the desperate? I hope not; I hope we all do our best to treat all these people well.
The person I’m thinking about is sitting right where you are sitting. Have you guessed it yet? Who is the person we often forget to treat well, who many people often leave off of their care and concern list? It is our selves! Yourself! Myself!
I think many people do not treat themselves well. They do not include themselves in the warmth of their own love. They might “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick,” and forgive those who have offended them. All these are surely great acts of virtue.
What we do for the least of our brethren we are doing for Christ. But what if you would discover that the least of your brothers and sisters, the poorest and the most needy of all people – is yourself? What if you would find that the biggest offender and the enemy of all enemies is living right within yourself?
If we wish to show love for the least of our brothers and sisters, we had better start showing it to ourselves. Maybe many of us live in ignorance of ourselves. We would rather not know what we are really like, what needs we really have. And so we don’t do anything for ourselves, we neglect ourselves; and in neglecting our own needs we are neglecting Christ. Some of us possibly remain in ignorance about ourselves by keeping busy with other people and their sins and troubles. This distracts us, lends us an air of virtue, and we deceive ourselves.
We must get to know ourselves, our virtues, our sins, our good and bad qualities. Then tend to our needs with care, with concern, and above all - with patience. But for this to even begin to happen we must first accept ourselves as we find ourselves, love ourselves as we are, and then unleash that love of ourselves and let it get into action. Do that and you’ll be surprised to find yourself improving
God loves you as you are — with all your imperfections and sinfulness, with any meanness that might be deep down inside you. It isn’t your sins he loves, of course. It is you! He loves you so much that he never stops trying to help release you from your sins so that you can become the wonderful person he knows you can be. He knows you will never enjoy real happiness until you become that person.
Are you a hateful person, an unforgiving person, a selfish person, an angry person? Okay! If those are the facts, if that is the true story of yourself, face it as true. But accept yourself, and love yourself as you find yourself - just as you are told to accept and love other people as you find them.
But don’t stop there. Just as you would help someone else to realize that their improvement would make them happier, you are to work on your own improvement so that you can become happier. Doing that shows great love for yourself, proper and unselfish love. You are to minister to your own needs, to tend to your own problems as well as you can. What you do to the least of your brethren, which just might be you yourself, you are doing for Christ.
Those who love themselves and others properly, and put that love into action, will go into eternal happiness. Those who hate themselves will probably continue hating themselves for all eternity.