Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
The first snow of the season was falling and several inches lay on the ground. The young man started to shovel the snow at the back of the driveway working his way forward. It was pleasant to feel the quiet and the snow falling as he worked. An older gentleman walked up the driveway and asked if the young man would let Old Nick sleep in his garage so he didn’t have to lie on the cold ground. These old bones can’t take the cold as well these days.
The young man looked at the gentleman in front of him. Old Nic had piercing deep blue eyes that were gentle. He had a beard and his hair and beard were starting to gray. Old Nic walked with a limp and the toe of his right boot was scuffed from dragging that leg. He wore an old military fatigue jacket; he was clean, and his clothes were clean.
The young man thought about the request to use the garage. They just moved in a few months ago so there was plenty of room in the garage. But what if he was really a serial killer? What if he would steal from us? What if he refused to leave after a night or two? What if…..? All of these thoughts ran through the young man’s mind.
“No, I don’t think so.” The young man said. Nic tried again. Please just one night: it’s cold and it’s snowing. It would be good to be able to sleep out of the cold. The young man’s mind was racing but he finally said “No, not now.” Old Nic said “Thank you and God Bless”, turned and walked away.
The young man continued shoveling the snow. The verses from today’s Gospel came to his mind. What if that was Jesus who was just here asking for help? Again the young man’s mind was racing: what if he was really a serial killer? The garage was detached from the house so that shouldn’t be a problem. What if he would steal from us? Was there really anything of that much value in the garage? What if he refused to leave after a night or two? That could be handled with the police if necessary. What if….?
What if that was Jesus? What if that really was Jesus and I had said “No”? I said no! I stopped shoveling and walked out to the street to look for Old Nic to tell him he could spend the night. The street was empty – only the soft sound of falling snow could be heard.
That night at the start of winter in December 1992 has stuck with me all these years.
Recently, while reading the Gospel of Luke these words popped out: “Give to everyone who asks of you”. That really hit me. I certainly don’t do that even today. But Jesus said to give to everyone who asks!
We think that the world has more violence today than any time in history. But if we read the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus, it really is not much different today. I used to occasionally pick up a hitchhiker but I would not think of doing that today due to safety concerns. How, then, do we serve the least of these as Jesus taught us? And who are the “least of these”?
Joyce Ann Zimmerman, CPPS wrote “We tend to identify as “least” those who are distant from our daily living, for example, victims of famine in a foreign land. But those in need are actually very near us; wherever there is human need, there is Christ and we are called to respond.”
In a recent interview, Bishop Cupich (now Archbishop of Chicago) said. “The pope is saying some very challenging things for people. He’s not saying, this is the law and you follow it and you get to heaven. He’s saying we have to do something about our world today that’s suffering; people are being excluded, neglected. We have a responsibility, and he’s calling people to task.”
And the most important part of that is that Pope Francis is calling people by example. Forbes magazine gave Pope Francis two awards last April.
“In the first six months of his Papacy, Francis squarely addressed the first critical question any CEO needs to ask about her company: what are the “jobs to get done?” He decisively articulated the job of the Church—serving society’s most vulnerable. In an unusually candid self-critique the Pope shifted the Church’s culture from, in his words one of “institutional self-preservation” back to its core mission.
The key to the Pope’s success as an innovator might just be that he leads by example. Rather than changing any creed, dogma or theology—that would inevitably create unnecessary tension and resistance—the Pope’s actions and practices simply embody the genuine mission of the church.”
Even the business world acknowledges the example that Pope Francis lives every day. This is the gift that God has given Catholics and the world; an example of love, peace and healing in a broken, violent world.
Pope Francis’s reflections at a recent Mass in Casa Santa Marta concerned our service to others. “We must resist temptations that distance us from our service to others. Instead, like Jesus, we must serve without asking for anything in return …..”
Jesus said ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
How do we serve the “least of these” today? We lead by example. Holy Cross has a long legacy of serving the “least” of these through our Outreach program. In addition, the Summer Lunch program in the Granite Falls school district was supported by our giving and 198 families received a Thanksgiving dinner this year through serving the least of these. We visit those who incarcerated and those who are sick.
In our daily lives, will we reach out to people we know or meet that are ignored or hurting due to cultural, generational, social or physical reasons? Will we be there for the suffering from the shootings at Marysville Pilchuck High School or pray for those at Florida University or Ferguson, Missouri? Will we look the other way so we don’t acknowledge the person standing on the corner with a sign asking for help? Or will we at least smile at them to acknowledge their human dignity and then pray for them that God will provide for them?
Will we smile and greet the man wearing a turban on his head? Will we smile and greet the man wearing a yamaka? Will we spend some time with a person who lost a loved one; just sit without a word – to be there to comfort them? Will we serve the least of these as Pope Francis said “without asking anything in return?”