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“Did You See Me?” by Bill Howden, ObOSB

Bill Howden Reflection Graphic Nov 2023Did You See Me?
Matt 25:31-46

They are totally clueless, sheep and goats alike. “When did we see you, Lord? We don’t remember seeing you! Or helping you!” To which the Ruler of the Ages responds, “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.”

This passage, the gospel reading for Christ the King Sunday, November 26, is filled with surprises. Those being judged are clearly surprised, but so are we, the readers.

“When the Son of Man comes in glory, escorted by all the angels,” and the peoples of all nations are gathered before the throne of judgment, what differentiates the righteous from the unrighteous, “the sheep” from “the goats”? Surprisingly,

  • There is no mention of regular church attendance.
  • There is no mention of right doctrine.
  • There is no mention of memorizing Bible verses or praying rosaries.

In short, there is no mention of the religious beliefs and practices that many of us take for signs of righteousness – that I, too often, take for proof of my own righteousness.

We Christians are called not only to honor Christ and to worship Christ, although that is certainly true. We are called also to be Christlike, to live generous and compassionate lives, to offer ourselves to others.

In a recent book (Taking Miracles Seriously: A Journey to Everyday Spirituality), Rabbi Michael Zedek recounts a rabbinic legend “which tells us that every human being is accompanied by a retinue of angels. With shofars blasting, they call out, ‘Make way for the image of God. Make way for the image of God.’”

Perhaps St. Benedict was hearing those angels when he wrote, “Any guest who happens to arrive at the monastery should be received just as we would receive Christ himself” (RB 53).

Back to the parable: I can imagine those goats protesting: “But Lord, I can recite whole chapters of scripture from memory!” “But Lord, I have defended right doctrine against all heresies!” And I can imagine Christ responding, “Well and good. But did you see me? Did you embrace the stranger? Feed the hungry? Did you visit those imprisoned? Did you look at the men and women around you and see me? Did you see me?”

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