Scripture: Lectionary 225, Mon.Feb.27. Leviticus 19:1-2.11-18. Psalm 19:8.9.10. Matthew 25:31-46. Corporal Works of Mercy according to St. Matthew’s Gospel
Who are the “least ones” mentioned in today’s Gospel which is about the last judgment and entrance into the kingdom of heaven? The word used in the Greek text means the least, the smallest, and the insignificant ones. Both from the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament these are usually the widows, the orphans, children, and the stranger or foreigners. They like many today in the Sudan have no one to trust in except God. They are called the ‘Anawim Adonai or the “Poor of God” in the psalms. We meet them in almost every book of the Bible and God and Jesus are concerned about their plight and their lives. We are able to hear their voice (“the cry of the poor”) in some of their prayers found especially in the psalms.
Jesus tells us through this lengthy parable that we are called to do something about their situation if we are to be among the righteous and among his faithful disciples. Isaiah has already given us the lead in what to do and now Jesus spells out the good deeds (mitzvoth) necessary to help the “little ones.” We have listed them in one of the Lenten reflections as the corporal works of mercy. Jesus repeated what the good works are three times in this parable, so we can hear about the corporal works once more without being impatient about them being mentioned again.
Matthew lists them in the following order: 1) to feed the hungry 2) to give drink to the thirsty 3) to welcome the stranger 4) to clothe they naked 5) to comfort those who are ill and 6) to visit those who are in prison or are captive. The Catholic catechisms add a seventh—to bury the dead.
Matthew is a good teaching evangelist and even is known as a catechetical gospel among the four gospels. Mark is for beginners in the faith and Matthew continues to instruct and act as mentor for the members of his community. Repetition is the mother of learning and Matthew does repeat as we see so much repetition in this parable. Both those who do something for the poor and little ones of God and those who do not are put to the test in the final judgment whether something has been done or not done. We are summoned to do something this week for at least one of these good works. Maybe a good start would be to visit the sick. “Just Do it! Amen.