Saint John of God, Religious – Readings

Commentaries on 1 John 3:14-18; Matthew 25:31-40

It would be difficult to find a more appropriate Gospel passage with which to honour John of the God.  It is the final section of chapter 25 in Matthew, a chapter which deals with the end times and about being prepared for the time when we will come face to face with our final appraisal. The chapter begins with the parable of the ten bridesmaids – five of them who took precautions to be ready whenever the bridegroom would arrive, and five who made no preparations and were caught off guard and so excluded from the wedding celebrations.

The second is the parable of the talents where three people are entrusted with different amounts by their superior and told to trade with them until he returned, whenever that would be.  Two of the servants used their capital very well and even doubled it.  But the third, hid his in the ground afraid even to lose what he had.  When the master returned, this last had nothing to offer except the original sum he had been given.

The last part which forms today’s Gospel is not exactly a parable, but an imagined enactment of our final calling to account at the end of our lives.  People are going to be divided into two groups, just as a shepherd divides off the sheep from the goats.

The sheep are first called forward and invited into God’s Kingdom.  What is interesting are the reasons why they have earned this reward.  If, left to ourselves, we were asked the kind of expectations God would have of us at the end of our lives, I wonder what kind of things would we bring up?  Would we say, for instance, that we never missed Mass, that we went to confession regularly, that we practised all kinds of prayers and devotions, that we kept the Commandment with great fidelity, were very conscientious in our work and so on?   On what basis are the sheep called in this story? 

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of meI was in prison and you visited me.’

Apparently, the sheep are very surprised to hear this and ask:

Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?

And the King will say to them:

Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.

There is mention of spiritual practices, even of Mass, and no mention of keeping the Commandments.  No mention of God!  In fact, the two great acts which the Gospel emphasises are love and service of one another and that is exactly what is described here, for:

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

Once love and service are taken care of nothing else really matters.  That is not to say that we can forget about Mass and prayer – not at all.  But it is the love and service of each other that must come first.  And it is on that that we will be measured.

John of the Cross, of course, was outstanding in his care and compassion for the sick poor and the abandoned.

The First Reading from the First Letter of John is saying exactly the same thing in slightly different words:

We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brothers and sisters.

And to love, of course, is not just to have nice feelings towards them, but to do much more, to serve them in all their real needs:

Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.

As our example, we need look no further than Jesus himself who laid down his life out of love for us.  And we need to do the same not just for Jesus, but for Jesus present in all our brothers and sisters.  There is no short cut to Jesus, bypassing those around us:

How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

So the writer says:

Little children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.

It is very easy to make all kinds of proclamations of love to Jesus in our prayers, but unless they are backed up by solid deeds of service, especially to the needy, they are very hollow indeed.  John of the Cross has much to teach us about all of this.

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