Thursday, November 17, 2011

What is crucial

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Eclesalia Informativo

Matthew 25:31-46

The tale is not really a parable but an evocation of the final judgment for all people. The whole scene is concentrated in a long dialogue between the Judge, who is none other than the risen Jesus, and two groups of people: those who have eased the suffering of the neediest and those who have lived denying them help.

Over the centuries, Christians have seen in this fascinating dialogue "the best recapitulation of the Gospel", "the utmost praise of love and solidarity", and "the sternest warning to those who falsely take refuge in religion". We are going to point out the basic statements.

All men and women without exception will be judged by the same criteria. What gives imperishable value to life is not social status, personal talent, and achievement over the years. What is crucial is love put into practice in solidarity with those in need of help.

This love translates into very specific deeds. For example, "giving something to eat", "giving something to drink", "welcoming the immigrant", "clothing the naked", "visiting the one who is sick or in prison". What's crucial in God's eyes is not religious deeds, but human gestures of help towards the needy. They can spring from a believer or from the heart of an agnostic who thinks of those who suffer.

Most of those who have helped the needy they have met along the way haven't done it for religious reasons. They haven't thought about God or Jesus Christ. They have simply sought to relieve some of the suffering in the world. Now, invited by Jesus, they enter the Kingdom of God as "blessed by the Father".

Why is it so crucial to help the needy and so reprehensible to deny them aid? Because, as the Judge reveals, what you do or fail to do to them, you do or fail to do to God himself incarnate in Christ. When we abandon a needy person, we are abandoning God. When we alleviate his or her suffering, we are doing the same for God.

This surprising message makes us all look at the suffering. There is no true religion, no progressive policy, no responsible human rights proclamation that doesn't defend the neediest, easing their suffering and restoring their dignity.

In each person who suffers, Jesus comes to meet us, looks at us, questions and implores us. Nothing brings us closer to Him than learning to look carefully and compassionately on the faces of those who suffer. Nowhere can we more truly recognize the face of Jesus.

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