‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ – Jesus
This Scripture is taken from a long passage – chapters 24 and 25 – in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus speaks of His second coming. It begins with His disciples pointing out the buildings of the temple, and Jesus replies, “not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (v. 2). He then tells of the end of the age, the great tribulation, and the coming of the Son of Man. His main points are (a) no one knows the day or hour, so be prepared, and (b) what will He find His followers doing when He returns?
This is a good time to ask ourselves that last question. Most of us find ourselves, for one of the few times in our lives, without great demands upon our schedule. We are told not to leave our homes except on “essential” trips; for those who are “non-essential” and cannot work from home, there are no work-related responsibilities. That means we have more control over how we spend our time than we’ve ever had. We have been given a treasure of extra time: Jesus’ words raise the question, “How are you spending your gift of time?”
I originally intended to describe some of the experiences I have had going out and about during these days, but I realize most of them aren’t much different than what many of you have experienced. Except one….
I was traveling by tube (the London Underground, what Americans call the “subway”) to the northwest part of the city bringing reserved Sacrament to several of our parishioners. It was just before the hard “lockdown” of the city, when the government officially closed restaurants, churches, and other gathering places. People had already stopped traveling for the most part, and those who did travel observed “social distance” guidelines and often wore masks.
At one stop a young woman boarded the carriage I was on and stood in the aisle a few feet from me. No one looked at her. She began a well-memorized description of her situation: why she was asking for money. Before she finished her first paragraph I handed her a £1 coin. She stopped in mid-sentence and looked at me in surprise. “Thank you”.
I asked her first name. “Chelsea” she answered. “May I pray for you?” “Sure!” She sat down opposite me, so I asked, “Is it okay if I anoint you for healing?” “Yes … please.” I made the sign of the cross with oil on her forehead, then placed my hand on her head and prayed for her: for her provision, for her protection, and for her healing – physical, spiritual, and most of all for her heart.
When I finished she shared some details of her life that weren’t in her rehearsed speech. She had left home a few years before in conflict, and was now trying to raise enough money to return home far to the southeast and seek reconciliation. As she finished sharing we came to my stop. She waved goodbye, and I promised to continue praying for her … and I have.
I will long remember the look in her eyes when I interrupted her with a coin. She was surprised because I hadn’t waited for her to justify what she was asking for. Then she was amazed that I would anoint her … and astonished that I would actually place my hand on her head when most people wouldn’t look at her, much less allow her to approach them. And no one would dare touch her.
From Jesus’ standpoint, did I do anything unusual? No. I only did what was my duty to do as Christ’s servant (Luke 17:10). But in that moment I gave her what she needed most: a touch from the God of all creation, from her heavenly Father who “loves her, has forgiven her, who is not mad at her, and will never leave her nor forsake her”.
You are Christ’s servant, too. What will He find you doing when He returns? How are you spending this gift of extra time?
“Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers or sisters, you did it to Me.”
Word of God: speak!
Non nobis Domine+
by Fr. Dana Jackson