At a recent church meeting, we heard the reading of Matthew 25:31-46 and were invited to reflect upon it. A collection of verses (35-40,42-45) resonated in my heart and mind:
… 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 me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “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 answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
… for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”
This portion has stayed with me, as it puts the onus on the disciples. What they did or did not do for the least of God’s children, they have done/not done to God. It is a blunt articulation of responsibility, of duty to God through the world.
This responsibility, I dare say, also applies to the disciples today: to each and every one of us who struggle to be a faithful Christian, living out our baptismal vows.
The onus is on us to make a difference. But in order to do that, we must first open our eyes.
When the disciples ask “When did we see you…”, they definitively articulate one of the challenges we all face. It’s not that the needs are hidden, it’s not that the needs are missing; rather it is that sometimes (by omission and commission), we do not see them.
We choose not to see those who are lonely, imagining that they choose to be solitary.
We choose not to see the hunger in the disruptive child in the classroom, blaming bad parenting or acronymic diagnoses.
We choose not to see the human-ness in the shape on the park bench, refusing to acknowledge the body huddled under the blanket.
“When did we not see?” the disciples asked then. “When do WE not see?” we might ask ourselves now. And we must challenge ourselves and question our own biases to wonder why we did/do not see.
The needs are there. The children of God are there. They are the hungry, the homeless, the hurting, the lonely: they are there. They are children of God. They are loved. They are important.
And it’s up to us to see them: to recognize the beauty in their presence, the grace in their persons, the opportunities in their situations.
Open our eyes, O God, that we may see: and that when we see, we may lovingly engage. Open our eyes that we will see you in the faces in front of us.