Lenten Devotional // Day 26

Thursday, March 31
THE LEAST OF THESE by Beth McClure

Matthew 25:31-46
“Now when the Human One comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left.
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’
“Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous ones will go into eternal life.”

Reflection 

This is such a hard passage. Most of us would immediately cast ourselves as the sheep. Of course we help those in need! But, do we always? Often we fail. Not because we are intentionally cruel. Perhaps we don’t know what to do or say, especially when unexpectedly faced with someone in urgent need. Perhaps we are afraid - of difference, of disease, of judgment from others. Or, maybe worst of all, it is because we don’t even see them. Those in the most dire need often hide in plain sight, but we are too busy to recognize their pain. It is easier to avert our eyes, assume someone else will help, or in our darkest moments, rationalize why they may not even deserve help.

Whether you believe in a literal hell or not, the failure to embrace “the least of these” creates a certain kind of hell not only in the afterlife, but here on Earth. It distances us from God and fosters the pain and brokenness that is already prevalent in our world.

Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” We must help to bend the arc in the right direction. We can’t do it alone, but with enough people hanging on, the arc will move closer and closer to reaching the “beloved community” about which Dr. King spoke - one “in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth…where injustice ceases and love prevails.”

Question for Contemplation

When I encounter one of “the least” of my siblings here on Earth, how do I respond? How could I do better? How can I prepare myself so that I may be more ready to respond in the moment?

Prayer

Dear God, just as I relish in your love, grace, and glory, please help me to share those with others. Open my eyes to their pain and suffering and give me the courage to help. Even when I am unsure of exactly what to do, keep me moving forward. Remind me that we were all created in your image and that we must treat each other just as we would treat your precious Son, Jesus. In his name we pray, Amen.

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