St Rose Philippine Duchesne – Readings

Commentary on Hosea 2:16-17,21-22; Matthew 25:31-40

The Gospel reading is from 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 imaginary 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 Commandments with great fidelity, were very conscientious in our work and so on?   On what basis are the sheep called in this story?  “I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you offered me hospitality; I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear; I was sick and you looked after me; I was in prison and you came to visit me.”  Similarly, the goats are condemned precisely for not doing any of these things, even though they may have been very devout in other areas of their life.

Apparently, the sheep are very surprised to hear the King’s words and ask, “When did we see you hungry and feed you?  When did we see you thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick or in hospital and come to your help?”  And the King will say to them, “As often as you did these things to the very least of my brothers and sisters you did them to Me.”  No 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.  “By this will all know that you are my followers, that you have love one for another.”  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.

Rose spent her life reaching out to the least in the Kingdom, especially in her apostolate among the native peoples of North America who were often treated as strangers in their own land.

It is an example to us to reach out to the many strangers who have come to find shelter on our shores.

The First Reading from the prophet Hosea is really talking about Israel as the spouse of Yahweh.  The Lord says he will betroth her to himself with integrity and justice, with tenderness and love.  “I will betroth you to myself with faithfulness and you will come to know the Lord.”

It is a lovely description of the relationship between the Lord and someone totally committed to his love and service.

And, of course, it very well expresses the beautiful relationship that Rose Duchesne had with her Lord, whom she met every day in the native children she was helping.

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