In a survey conducted in the United States not so long ago, people were asked what they most want to be remembered for. Right at the top of the list, regardless of their financial status, 69% said it’s “the memories I’ve shared with my loved ones”. Have you ever reflected on ‘what do you most want to be remembered for?’ American novelist, nonfiction author, photographer, and an outdoorsman Lynn Schooler, in his 2010 memoir entitled Walking Home: A Traveller in the Alaskan Wilderness, a Journey into the Human Heart wrote, “it does not matter if we are forgotten; what matters is the effect we have on those around us and those who come after us. What matters is how our own lives affect the larger, perpetual community of the living.” How aligned is his thinking to the gospel today.
The question that stems from the gospel passage is ‘when all is finished, what is a man/woman left with or remembered with?’ It would point to the love that we have shown to our brother and sister in a way that we have effected those around us. Just like the previous weeks, the gospel today is presented with another dichotomous entity – sheep and goats. It is not clear why Jesus presents the sheep as better than the goats and because of that, there are many plausible explanations. One common explanation is that sheep look towards a shepherd to lead them and protect them from the environment, whereas goats lead the goatherd wherever they wish to go. Perhaps that is why Jesus presents Himself as the Good Shepherd, the One who leads and protects His flock… “my sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
Though the gospel passage today is referred to as The Last Judgement, it surely has more to offer than the final coming of Christ. It has very much to do with the present too. We have come to the end of the Liturgical Year and are at the point of transitioning from Ordinary Time into the season of Advent. The gospels during the Ordinary Time may be considered to be the ‘school of discipleship’, where Jesus teaches His disciples what it means to be His follower. On this last Sunday in Ordinary Time, the gospel acts as the checkpoint, to establish in all things, how important love of neighbour is, particularly to those in need.
Jesus often dentifies Himself with those in need, namely, the poor and the vulnerable, since they are in need of being protected. That is why “each one of us is invited to recognise in the fragile human being, the face of Jesus” (Pope Francis). In fact, what we do for others we do it for Christ
As we enter into the season of Advent, our eyes may already be fixed on the baby in the manger. Let us not forget the many among us who may be in greater need than ourselves. We are called recognise Christ in them through simple acts of love and mercy because “in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” A disciple of Christ should have no excuse to neglect those who are in need, or even hand this responsibility solely to the Church or government. Jesus calls us to personal involvement in caring for the needs of others.
In this pandemic, we all have our struggles, but if each of us can begin to look closely on every person, and especially the poor and the vulnerable, we will slowly begin to see the ‘disfigured and hardly human face’ (cf. Isaiah 52:14) of Jesus, our King. It is here that we can then be inspired to work together to transform our world into as close an image of the kingdom of God .
Since we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, we must not be blind to the face of Jesus in the poor and vulnerable. Our duty to minister to the poor and to carry out the corporal works of mercy must always be founded on the love of God and never self-glory. It is only when we can see Christ in the people around us, we can reach out in love, and effect change in the world. As we begin this new Liturgical Year under unprecedented circumstances, it will be an opportunity for each one of us to focus and re-align our attention though a new lens on what the true meaning of the coming of Jesus is, be it as an infant child or as our messianic King. May we bring the Jesus-effect to those around us and those who come after us. Amen.