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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lost sheep

This Gospel is, in many ways, what it all comes down to.
Thanksgiving always means we are nearing crunch-time for most college and high-school students: just around the corner are exams or finals, whatever they are called.  I remember losing some sleep and certainly cutting back on social time during the last week of college semesters: I wanted to do my best and be ready for that test.
Well, today, Jesus gives us a study-guide for our test, in fact its practically the answer-sheet.
Augustine quote: All that the wicked do is recorded, and they do not know. When “our God comes, he does not keep silence.”... he will turn towards those at his left hand:...” I placed my poor little ones on earth for you. I as their head was seated in heaven at the right hand of my Father—but on earth my members were suffering, my members on earth were in need. If you gave anything to my members, what you gave would reach their Head. Would that you had known that my little ones were in need when I placed them on earth for you and appointed them your stewards to bring your good works into my treasury. But you have placed nothing in their hands; therefore you have found nothing in my presence.” from CCC #1039

That's pretty sobering stuff, and that is why we Catholics take this message seriously.  This is why you can find Saint Vincent de Paul societies around the globe.  This is why our parish itself sacrifices close to a tenth of our operating budget to the needy of our area, not including all the collections and other donations that go directly to those in need.  The only test that is going to matter in the end is the five-word test: "you did it to me."  So we take what we do seriously - intensely.  

I think this has most impact on the small level: in the one-on-one encounters we have with the needy, like Dorothy Day did.  I was once told, in regards to this passage: "you have to see Jesus in them."  Even those people at stoplights whose stories are mysteries to us.  When we see people begging it should get under our skin, make us uncomfortable.  Because people make demands on us - we are responsible and God won't forget it.  I speak this more as a challenge to myself than to you, frankly. But like Blessed Mother Teresa did, we should see Jesus in them, no matter how disguised or disfigured Jesus looks within them.

Jesus himself practiced works of mercy.  He is our model.  He treats every person with dignity and love.  We have to see them through the eyes of their heavenly Father, and tend to their needs: both body and soul.  We call these the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
2447    The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.242 Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.243 Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity.
Jesus actually spent much more time on the spiritual works of mercy, and perhaps we should, too, without neglecting the physical needs.  We should accompany, as P. Francis likes to put it.  How will the world recognize us Christians? By our charity.  Let's be a strong witness of that love that we receive in this Eucharist, the Sacrament of Charity.

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