OPTION 2: St. Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier and a Christian. One cold winter day, as he was entering a city, a beggar stopped him and asked for alms. Martin had no money; but the beggar was blue and shivering with cold and Martin gave what he had. He took off his soldier’s coat, worn and frayed as it was; he cut it in two and gave half of it to the beggar man. That night he had a dream. In it he saw the heavenly places and all the angels and Jesus in the midst of them; and Jesus was wearing half of a Roman soldier’s cloak. One of the angels said to him, “Master, why are you wearing that battered old cloak? Who gave it to you?” And Jesus answered softly, “My servant Martin gave it to me.”
When we learn the generosity which without calculation helps men in the simplest things, we too will know the joy of helping Jesus Christ himself.
We conclude the Church’s liturgical year with the Feast of Christ the King. Although Christ has always been recognized by the Catholic Church as the King of kings, the feast of Christ the King did not receive official recognition until it was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. It was celebrated in October but after Vatican II Council the feast was moved to the last Sunday of the Church’s liturgical calendar. The change was made to emphasize the Christ will reveal to humankind the fullness of His glory as King only at the end of time.
What does Jesus as King mean? The gospel today gives us a picture of what to expect of Christ the King.
First, He judges. Today’s gospel speaks about the final judgment when Christ the King will separate according to our needs. There will clearly be judgment for all at the end of time. God will not take into account our knowledge and degree, our fame and influence, our wealth and possessions, the number of prayers we have recited and the accuracy of our following the external regulations but the concrete gestures of charity to our needy brothers and sisters. I hope we will be alright and find ourselves on the right side because whatever we did to our least brethren, we did this too to Christ. Nobody will escape the judgment of the King who knows everything about everyone.
I read this story about a prolific author who died. Thinking that St. Peter would judge her according to what she did here on earth, she brought to the gate of St. Peter, a cartful of books that she had written here on earth.
Right in front of her was another woman carrying another cartful of books. The author, wanting to strike a conversation, said to the woman in front of her: “Ma’am, it seems you are also a writer like me?” And this woman answered: “No ma’am, I do not know how to read and write.”
Then the author said: “How come you have so many books? I brought my books because these are the ones I wrote on earth and I hope they will establish my credentials so I can enter heaven.”
And the poor, poor madam who didn’t know how to read and write, said: “Ay, good for you, ma’am. You know how to read and write. Me, I don’t know how to read and write. I just took care of babies and babies and babies all my life – my babies, the babies of my babies, the babies of my neighbors, babies of the neighborhood; babies here, babies there and babies everywhere. I took care of them.”
“And what are the books you are carrying?” asked the author. And the illiterate woman says, “These are the books containing the names of all the people I served on earth. I was told it would be important in heaven.”
And the author bowed her head and said to herself: “Oh my God, I wrote the wrong books.”
Second, He rewards. God is just. He is not forgetful even the small act of kindness each one of us does. He will reward those who forget themselves and reach out to others, the needy because He identifies Himself with other people.
This is beautiful Christian ideal to have before us is that Jesus is in the other person. Jesus is in the person next to me, the person behind me, in front of me, in the person I live. With and work with. One person in recent history who lived this is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. When she was in hospital in 1983 this was part of her meditation.
Jesus is the Hungry – to be fed; Jesus is the Thirsty – to be satiated; Jesus is the Naked – to be clothed; Jesus is the Homeless – to be taken in; Jesus is the Sick – to be healed; Jesus is the Lonely – to be loved; Jesus is the unwanted – to be wanted. Jesus is the Leper – to wash His wounds; Jesus is the Beggar – to give Him a smile; Jesus is the Drunkard – to listen to Him; Jesus is the mental – to protect Him; Jesus is the Little one to embrace Him; Jesus is the Blind – to lead Him; Jesus is the Dumb – to speak for Him; Jesus is the Crippled – to walk with Him; Jesus is the Drug Addict – to befriend Him; Jesus is the Prostitute – to remove from danger and befriend Him; Jesus is the Prisoner – to be visited; Jesus is the Old – to be served.
Third, He punishes. Again God is fair. He has enabled us to be of service to others. He has blessed us to be able to share with others. We don’t lack opportunities to help others, for as Jesus says, “The poor are always with you,” (John 12:8). He identifies Himself with the needy. That is why Tobit advised his son, Tobias and we too, with these words: “Set aside part of your goods for almsgiving. Never turn your face from any poor man and God will never turn His from you. Measures your alms by what you have, if you have much, give more, if you have little, give less; but do not be mean in giving alms. By doing so, you will lay for yourself a great treasure for the day of necessity. For almsgiving, delivers from death and saves men from passing down to darkness. Alms is the most effective offering for those who give it in the presence of the Most High,” (4:7-12).
At the end let us pause for a moment what the great basketball player Michael Jordan had said according to his biographer. This biographer narrated that he always saw Jordan talked to some young boys on the parking lot after every game held in Chicago. He asked Michael: “Why do you take time to talk to those boys?”
Jordan replied: “Talking with them takes so little effort on my part but it means so much to them. Our little acts of kindness to others mean so much to God.
“Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A