MEETING JESUS IN THE POOR

Christ the King   

            After knowing that man had just walked on the moon for the first time, a sister of the Missionaries of Charity asked Mother Teresa, “Mother, do you think you will be able to go to the moon?” Mother Teresa answered, “If there are poor, sick, rejected abandoned and dying people on the moon, I will certainly go there with my sisters.”

            It was not the ambition of Mother Teresa to go to the moon. She was simply expressing her desire and willingness to go wherever she could help and serve the poor and the needy. Why did she have that kind of desire and willingness? Because she firmly believed that in helping the needy and in serving the poor, it was Christ himself whom she was helping and serving.

            Today’s gospel stresses that the basic criteria that will determine who will be saved and who will be condemned is our attitude towards our needy sisters and brothers. The gospel proclaims to us that the least of the earth’s children are the privileged presence of God among us. What we neglect to do in our care and service of them, we neglect in our worship and attentiveness to God. On the other hand, what we do in response to their physical or corporal needs, we do in our love for Christ. It is by the criteria of active love for one another demonstrated in daily life that, on the day of the last judgement, everyone will be judged.

            Alalahanin natin na sa pagtugon natin sa pangangailangan ng kapwa natin ay ang pangangailangan ni Kristo mismo ang tinutugunan natin. Ang isang nagugutom at naghihikahos na naghihintay ng tulong ay si Kristong humihingi ng kaginhawahan. Ang isang nangungulila na naghahanap ng makikinig sa kanya ay si Kristong naghahanap ng kasama at karamay. Ang isang inaapi na naghihintay ng magtatanggol sa kanya ay si Kristong humihingi ng katarungan. It is said that the heaven’s gate will be guarded not by Peter but by the poor who will let in only those they recognize who have helped them. Papasukin kaya tayo sa langit ng mga dukha na nakikita at nakakatagpo natin sa araw-araw? Mag-ingat tayo baka hindi tayo papasukin. Hindi sapat na wala tayong ginagawang masama laban sa kanila; kailangan may gawin tayong mabuti para mapabuti ang kalagayan nila at guminhawa ang buhay nila.

            At the Last Judgment, the King will let inherit the Kingdom… who? Those who loved… those who loved by responding to the needs of the least among us. Love is an action verb: “I was hungry and you gave me food… a stranger and you welcomed me… in prison and you visited me.” I love quoting these words of St. Vincent de Paul: “Let us love God, brothers and sisters… Let us love God… but let it be by the sweat of our brows and by the strength of our arms.”

            We should always keep in mind the words of St. John of the Cross:  “In the evening of our lives we shall be judged on love.” That is why it is important that at the end of each day we should ask ourselves: “Did I love or not?” Did I love by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting prisoners, defending the weak?

            The presence of Jesus is hidden among the poor and the vulnerable: where their needs are recognized, Jesus is acknowledged. Today’s gospel challenges us to see Christ, to recognize our King, in those in need of help. To find Christ the King and honor him in truth we must look for him among our least sisters and brothers: Among the hungry, not only for material food, but for attention and consideration, care and concern. Among the thirsty, not only for water or drink, but for understanding and acceptance for who they are – with warts and all. Among the naked – stripped of decency and respect, stripped of their dignity and rights. Among the ill – including those who are sick because of depression, abuse, and addiction. Among the imprisoned – give them a second chance and help them as they try to redeem themselves. Among the abused and maltreated, the marginalized and dehumanized. Indeed, Christ identifies himself with the least of his sisters and brothers. So, when we respond to their needs, we respond to Christ himself.

            Let us end with this prayer that the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation founded by Mother Teresa, offer daily: “Though you hide yourself behind the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting and the unreasonable, may I still recognize you and say, “Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve you.”        

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