Saturday, November 22, 2014

Nov. 23, 2014: Christ the King, Year A

Click to hear Audio Homily
Have you ever heard of the Gospel on Five Fingers? No, it's not a finger-sized bible. The Gospel on Five Fingers is a simple five-word phrase which Mother Teresa taught to everyone she met--"You did it to me." This simple phrase, for Mother Teresa, summarized the whole of the Gospel mandate from Jesus, "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me...for I was hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, unwanted, untouchable,--and you did it to me." Mother Teresa said, "I call this the Gospel on five fingers--five words: You did it to me...Look at your fingers often and remind yourself of this love."

A Hindu man once approached Mother Teresa and pointed out that while both he and Mother were doing social work, the difference was that he and his coworkers were doing it for something while Mother Teresa was doing it for someone. She didn’t help people simply because “it was the right thing to do.” She helped them because she knew, deep in her heart, that by serving others she was serving Jesus himself.

One parishioner shared a childhood memory which echoed Mother Teresa's teaching. She remembered a nun who taught her class saying, "Children, remember when you see people, it is Jesus walking by." "You did it to me," is also the phrase that we will hear Jesus say to us as he reviews our life after we die.

On this, the last Sunday of the Church’s liturgical year, the Feast of Christ the King, we heard the Gospel reading about the Last Judgement. That word, 'Last Judgment' sounds so imposing, doesn't it? Perhaps we get the impression of a terrible and frightening moment in which God appears as a cold judge and king, separating people into different categories and separating them from him and from each other for all eternity. The last judgement, however, is not about how we respond to a collection of arbitrary rules and norms; it is primarily about how we respond in love to the God who is love.

Most of us enjoy doing good deeds. If we are honest, we have mixed motivation when we do something nice or good for others. We know that at times we secretly desire or even enjoy getting some recognition from others for doing praiseworthy things. Jesus reminds us in scripture that if our motivation for doing good is for getting praise from others, we already have received earthly reward. The missing ingredient is love, that is, willing the good of others, not for my sake but for other's sake. It is a challenge to each of us and to our Christian community that being a Christian is never just something inward looking. The Christian life is never self-centred. God is love and the Christian life can only be a life which reflects that love. The Christian cannot be unconcerned about or uninterested in those around us or what's going on in our community, state and world.

The greater challenge is to love or to will the good of others when we have difficulty seeing Jesus in them. Another way to say this is that some people make it hard for us to love them, and we make it hard for others to love us. Imagine then when we die and as Jesus reviews our life, Lord will say to us, "Come, you who have been blessed by my Father. You saw me and cared for me." We will say to the Lord, "Jesus, when did we see you?" And how will the Lord reply? Will he say, "For I was hungry for a smile, and you gave it to me. I was hungry for a word of appreciation, and you thanked me. I was thirsty for a little companionship, and you stopped to chat with me. I was a stranger, and you made me feel welcome." Or will he say, "I needed a decent wage, and instead you worried about profits of your company. I was a person of color desiring dignity, and you ignored my plea for equality. I was a prisoner of guilt, and you could have set me free by forgiving me, but you let me languish there to punish me."

The judgment about how we lead our lives is not something which takes place in the distant future and which leaves time for us to put off decisions. We encounter Jesus every day, and he awaits our response. Will we see Jesus and respond with love? At the end of day, will Jesus say to us, "You did it to me"?