No matter what our age or position in life, much of what we do has some type of an assessment attached. With every project we undertake, with every job to which we are assigned, and in every position we fill, we are faced with some form of evaluation that determines the quality of our efforts. Test results, report cards, profiles, work reviews, and periodic assessments are benchmarks designed to reflect our progress. This is certainly true of the followers of Jesus, and a reality we confront in today’s Gospel.
This Gospel exam seems so simple that it may be overlooked in favor of other more challenging demands on our efforts and energy to work toward holiness. Matthew’s Gospel lists the holiness profile; in fact it states it almost word-for-word four times to make the point. Do we take care of the most pressing needs of the poor? Do we address their hunger, thirst, foreign status, nakedness, illness and imprisonment? For the people of Jesus’ time and for us today, these test questions are not new, but sadly, they need to be asked and answered again and again.
Obviously, none of these questions require years of study, a college degree, or special training. These acts of human kindness define discipleship! Jesus has chosen to identify himself with the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, and estranged of the earth, a relationship found throughout the four Gospels. As Spiritual author Fr. Roland Rolheiser has stated, “Jesus’ teaching on this is very strong, consistent throughout all the Gospels and leaves no room for equivocation. In the Christian Scriptures, one out of every ten lines deals directly with the physically poor and the call from God for us to respond to them. In the Gospel of Luke, the challenge occurs every sixth line, and the Epistle of James, every fifth line.”
Spiritual writer, Joseph Donders reminds us about that final test: “The judgment that will determine whether eternity shall be enjoyed or endured hangs upon more than charity. If we practice only charity, the misery of this world would not be purified away; it may be held at bay momentarily, but then would return with strength and a vengeance that demands more than a band-aid solution. Programs must be implemented and systems must be reformed so that today’s charity will be supported, promoted and ensured by tomorrow’s social justice.”
We have the script for our exit interview. These are, in fact, the final exam questions in advance, so we can prepare well for the final exam. The answers are simple, reflected by our level of compassion and justice. If we are just and compassionate with one another, we will all be part of the “come you who are blessed” group!
Today’s Gospel can certainly raise our level of concern. While judgment is a part of our ongoing assessment system, it will also be part of the process that moves us into everlasting life. On this Feast of Christ the King, we would do well to focus our lives, not on King Jesus, but on Good Shepherd Jesus, because he is always seeking the lost, the strayed, the injured, and the sick, and restoring them to health and safety. It is time to evaluate our level of discipleship. The test is simple, yet the question remains: When did we see you Lord? Indeed, when did we not see you?
----Deacon Wilson Shierk