“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
Are we sheep or goats?
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Many years ago as a young child, said to his mother, “I know how to end all war.” “How”, she asked. “Stop sinning” was the answer. The mother knew that what the child said was true.
Today this truth is abundantly clear. All the evils of conflict, exploitation, poverty, and environmental depredation are a direct result of our greed and our indifference to all things that don’t confront us directly. It isn’t easy, though, to accept personal responsibility. It is much easier to see the responsibility lying with big business, Government, rogue leaders, the rich and everybody else.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put 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; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25, 31-46)
Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better and the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph. (Haile Selassie)
Jesus came to change the world. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asked who was a neighbour to the man attacked and left to die and the answer was the man who did something. The sin of those who passed by was to do nothing – a sin of omission rather than commission, yet, in a sense, action rather than inaction. Another message in the parable of the Good Samaritan is the answer to the question a priest asked many years ago at the end of his homily: “Who is my neighbour?” The answer was “Everyone”.
And so the Gospels, as applied in today’s world, charge us with seeing everyone as our neighbour – people we don’t like, people we have never met, people near and people at the other end of the world. And the Gospels charge us to recognise that not doing anything about the exploitation, poverty, abuse or the wretchedness of our neighbour is an act. It is an act of omission.
This month let us pray that:
• We can come to understand what Jesus taught in the Gospel of Mathew and acknowledge the evil of doing nothing. That the Lord will show us any sin of omission.
• We can come to understand that everything is inter-connected and that, somehow, we share some responsibility for everything that is wrong in the world.
• Please also pray for Samara Levy (see December’s prayer theme). She is experiencing some health issues. Please pray that she maintains her health and is able to continue her good work in Syria and will one day be able to visit and share her story first hand.