“43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.” Matthew 25:43
We strive to follow Christ and to show his love to our neighbor. It is often easier to love people from afar or ask others to do the work for us. When we are confronted with the needy, it is tempting to turn away and hope that someone else will reach out to them. This is not the way of Jesus. “What you do to the least of these, you do to me.” Matt. 25:40
21 Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear:
22 Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord. “Should you not tremble in my presence?
26 “Among my people are the wicked who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch people.
27 Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful
28 and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not seek justice. They do not promote the case of the fatherless;
they do not defend the just cause of the poor.
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
I knew him before his world collapsed.
He shuffled into church alone: needy, poor, broken.
Vulnerability alarms me.
Jesus descends into darkness and stretches his arms to embrace the world.
I approve, but not in this space.
Sickness is death,
Poverty is scarcity,
Mental illness is entanglement.
Keep these away from me.
I will pray for those in the world, but fear them in this space.
Their existence contrasts with my self-righteousness,
Revealing coldness, inhospitality and fear.
Love is easy when it requires no interaction with the unlovely.
The beggar turns to me.
“The peace of the Lord be with you,” he says as he extends his hand,
Exposing my poverty in this sanctuary.
Thomas Merton says, “It is not filth and hunger that make saints, nor even poverty itself, but love of poverty and love of the poor. . .Many religious people, who say they love God detest and fear the very thought of a poverty that is real enough to mean insecurity, hunger, dirt.” (New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 251).
Lord, it is easy to pray for the sick, broken and needy in the world, but it is not so easy to extend love. Personal involvement requires personal interaction. We excuse ourselves for not touching others by promising prayer or money and keeping them at a distance. Forgive us and lead us in true service. Amen.