Bottom line: Jesus comes in surprising ways - as Mother Teresa says, sometimes in a most distressing disguise. "Whatever you did for these least brothers of mine, you did for me.
Today's Gospel can seem overwhelming, even scary. At the end of history Jesus divides people into two groups: sheep and goats. The sheep enter eternal life and the goats go off to eternal punishment. The sheep unknowingly cared for Jesus who was hungry, outcast, ill and imprisoned. To use St. Teresa of Calcutta's phrase, they served Jesus in "his most distressing disguise." The goats, on the other hand, neglected to care for Jesus in disguise.
How should we understand this parable of sheep and goats? It's important to recall the context. It comes right after the parables of the talents and the ten virgins in the wedding party. If you remember the basic message is that God establishes a partnership with us. He gives gifts and talents - and expects a return.
God wants us ready because he comes unexpectedly. He comes in surprising ways - perhaps none more surprising than what Jesus tells us today, in the disguise of the hungry, the imprisoned, the ill, the outcast.
In recent weeks our parish has reached out to the homeless, especially through the Community Dinner. Parishioners have shared they have a child, nephew or grandchild living on the streets. As you can imagine it breaks their hearts. They don't know what to do, how to reach that loved one.
To think about the homeless can overwhelm, especially if you include others Jesus calls his "least ones": the gravely ill and imprisoned. We drive by them every day. The Monroe prison holds some 2,400 offenders.
So should we all volunteer for prison ministry? Join St. Vincent de Paul? Sign up for a Mission Trip to Peru? Obviously, I am delighted with those responses, but I think there is something more basic. It's what Jesus said last weekend about the talents. Pray about the gifts God has given you and how he wants you to invest them.
Let me illustrate. In our last Peru delegation we had a guy great at carpentry and home repairs. He redid the kitchen we use to prepare meals for 40 or 50 children. He got the water hooked up so we don't run out for washing hands and for the toilets. He did it for the those Jesus calls the littlest ones. Do you see? This guy not only had good will; he had spent years developing practical skills.
Now, we are not all good at repairs. I can barely sew on a button! Yet if we each discern our gifts, we can do amazing things, or better put, God can do amazing things through us.
God has given us gifts of time, talents and material resources. The second reading has a phrase that should help us invest our gifts. St Paul talks about "first fruits." We've received the first fruits of Jesus' sacrifice. He wants us to dedicate our own first fruits back to God.
We'll hear more about this in Advent - the season we focus on God's coming. Remember this: God has established a partnership with you and me. He has given us gifts and expects a return - first fruits. And he comes in surprising ways - as Mother Teresa says, sometimes in a most distressing disguise. "Whatever you did for these least brothers of mine, you did for me." Amen.
From Archives (Christ the King Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes on Maccabees*
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru