Commentary on the Gospel of
Monday of the First Week of Lent
The readings in today’s liturgy are direct hits on the season of Lent. The first reading is one of the renditions of the 10 Commandments and the gospel reading is the summation of how Jesus wants us to live our lives. What is more fruitful than recalling the Commandments and reviewing Jesus’ call for us to love one another.
A recent event highlighted for me the meaning of Jesus’ way of loving God and loving others. One of our basketball players (Nationally rated 10th, Creighton University – sorry for the plug–) came into the locker room after a decisive victory. He had two huge sheets with pictures of the players and their schedule for the season. He had each player autograph the sheets. When asked why he was doing this, he replied that two grade-school kids had asked him to get all the autographs for them. He was doing this very quickly to get it done before coach came in for his final remarks about the game; and, he got it done in time.
I was struck by the care for others that he showed. It matched the care for the game and for his teammates that he consistently shows. “There’s something special here!” I thought. He was going outside of himself for others. Seemingly not a big deal in terms of the world’s great needs, but a simple act of kindness towards others, two young lads star-struck by their favorite team.
The gospel today has Jesus proclaiming how to live the Good Life of faith. Observe the context, separating the sheep from the goats, and who deserves to be honored and who deserves a reprimand.
The scene is the end times where Jesus comes “in his glory and all the angels with him.” He invites the people come, “who inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”. For I was hungry . . .thirsty. . . a stranger . . .naked ill, in prison – and you came and tended to me in my need, whatever it was.
And they ask: “When did we see you hungry, etc.” and Jesus famously answers them, “whatever you did for one of these least of my sisters or brothers, you did for me.”
Notice the emphasis here. Not on the grand deed, the enormous task, but on simple care for others. I’m not asked to save Omaha, or Nebraska, or an even bigger chunk of real estate. I am simply called to look outside myself to others as Jesus looked outside of himself and responded to people’s needs.
Lent is the perfect time to examine ourselves and to be challenged to be selfless. The star basketball player demonstrated that wonderfully. The simple act of tending to the needs of a couple of starstruck kids, is what Jesus is talking about here in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 25.
Our task for Lent is to let ourselves be opened outward – towards those who look for care. Can I accept that challenge? Can I even become aware of their calling to me? And can I trust that Jesus means what he says to us all?
Lord, keep us close to you during this Lenten season. Help us to know in our hearts the love that you show us and the strength of our God who invites us all to imitate You in showing that love to our Sisters and Brothers.