The Criteria For Judgment

The University of St. Thomas Office for Spirituality posts daily reflections during Lent.  I authored today’s reflection, focusing on today’s Gospel from Matthew.  Here is what I wrote:

Today’s Gospel is the familiar passage from Matthew’s Gospel in which Jesus explains to his followers the basis upon which the Son of Man will separate those who stand before him on the day of judgment.  The explanation given to those he will welcome into his kingdom is that when he was hunger they fed him; thirsty, they gave him something to drink; a stranger, they welcomed him; naked, they gave him clothing; sick, they took care of him; in prison, they visited him.  Of course, his hearers remember no such good deeds done for Christ, prompting his further explanation: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

The theologian Michael Himes makes much of this passage, writing

“the criterion of judgment has nothing to do with any explicitly religious action.  The criterion is not whether we were baptized, or prayed, or read Scripture, or received the Eucharist, or believed the correct doctrines, or belonged to the church.  Not one of these – however important they may be – is raised as the principle of judgment.  Only one criterion is given: Did you love your brothers and sister?”

Reflecting on this Gospel passage invites us to reflect on the question: Do we see the face of Christ when we look at our brothers and sisters?  And I don’t mean the brothers and sisters who look like us.  Do we see the face of Christ….

…in the prisoner on death row

…in the homeless beggar on the street

…in those addicted to drugs or alcohol

…in those whose politics we find objectionable

…in those who don’t’ share our religious beliefs

…in those whose sexual orientation we don’t understand.

We want to be able to see the face of Christ in every single person we encounter because He is right there in every single person, however misleadingly he is disguised by characteristics that make him look different from us.  And seeing others as Christ, we want to respond to them in love and compassion, doing what we can to meet their needs.

Lent offers us a wonderful opportunity to practice that recognition and response.

Note: You can read all of the posted reflections here.