Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Reading: Matthew 25:31-40
Jesus said "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'
From Fr. T
A few weeks ago, I took my girls to see Disney's film "A Christmas Carol." It is a new animated version of the story shown in amazing 3-D. Perhaps because Disney makes amusement park rides, part of the film felt like being on a roller coaster. Speeding through the streets of Victorian England was pretty fun. That wasn't what impressed me about the film, though. What really stood out is how devoted the script was to Charles Dickens's original novella.
Because most of the script of the film was taken word for word from Dickens, the point of that original story came loud and clear through this secular film: Christians are supposed to care for the poor. That is the point Dickens was making, and the film pulled no punches. While I would argue that a Christmas Carol suffers from a hefty dose of works-based salvation, it certainly made an impression on me and my kids.
Advent is a season in which the Church looks ahead at the great Day of Judgment. On that Day, you and I will not be saved or damned because of how we treat the poor. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. But the Lord will judge our works, including the way we treat the poor. We will be answerable for our actions.
In this season of Advent, then, it is important to spend some of our time, energy, and money on those who are less fortunate. Last week I suggested giving to or working at the Family Affair Christmas Store, and I still do. Another way that I recommend is through World Vision's Christmas Catalog. This catalog, available via mail an on-line, allows you to select gifts that will be given to the poor in the name of another person. So, instead of buying a sweater for your sister, you could give a sheep or a goat to a family in Africa. You could provide a month of education to an orphan, or a fish pond for a village, or clothing for the homeless, or a soccer ball for children in Latin America. World Vision will then send your recipient a card, or you can print one off and send it yourself.
You can visit the Christmas Catalog by going to WorldVision.org
Gift giving is part of the tradition of Christmas; I am not suggesting otherwise. I am suggesting that perhaps some of the gifts we give this year could be a blessing to both the recipient and to a person in need. I especially think of those people who don't really need anything else, the man or woman "who has it all." Maybe this would be a good time of the year to feed the hungry and clothe the naked in their name, and in the Name of Christ.