For Monday of the First Week of Lent
On Ash Wednesday, as always, we began this season of getting ready for the Easter renewal of our Baptismal promises as the children of God.
The Ash Wednesday Gospel reading is always the one where Christ tells us to seek the goods of kinship with God the Father by secret ways of prayer in solitude, hidden fasting, and anonymous giving of alms.
Alms as a word comes through Old English and Church Latin from the Greek word for mercy.
In today’s Gospel reading Christ told us of sundry ways he expects us to give mercy to others.
He said in today’s Gospel reading that he will return to sift the Blessed from the damned.
He will bless the righteous to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.
God brought all mankind into being out of nothing, and will give the righteous his kingdom as his sons and daughters.
He created them from nothing, and he would clothe them in his own image and dignity.
They came from nothing, and he would enrich them with his mercy.
He created them from nothing, and he would give them himself as their food and drink.
They were nothing, and he would give them life, salvation and holiness.
He created them from nothing, and he would embrace them as his children and royal heirs.
Compared to God’s goodness to us whom he made from nothing, it is nothing for us to turn to feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, and welcome strangers.
To clothe the naked, comfort the sick, and visit prisoners is nothing compared to God’s will for the righteous whom he made from nothing with the rest of mankind.
On the other hand, merely to neglect mercy to the needy is to turn away from God.
Christ the King will banish the neglectful, as he said in his Gospel today: Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
Those sixteen damning words are the unedited, unabridged, uncensored, LONG version.
The SHORT version— saying EXACTLY the same— is: Go to hell.
When we dare say those words to others, we USURP the authority of CHRIST as king, as judge and AS GOD.
Ironically, some Christians today dismiss Christ’s authority in this matter, because their IDEOLOGY is that Christ would never tell anyone to go to hell— not even in the elegant, longer, original version.
Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For the people of God two thousand years ago, it was somewhat unheard of when Christ taught straightforwardly that hell IS and that it never ends.
Against the background of the Old Testament, no one had taught the truth of hell with such steady, open and brazen knowledge and words until Christ himself did so throughout his preaching.
What’s most frightening in today’s Gospel is that we don’t have to do evil to end up with Christ the King telling us to go to hell.
He says if we NEGLECT mercy to the needy, he will tell us to burn with the Devil.
What you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.
The light in today’s Gospel is that even if we didn’t know it Christ the King counts our mercy to the needy as rendered to himself.
If we begin to imitate God’s goodness by our mercy to the needy, then we— whom God in his untold mercy made from nothing— we can begin to have God and his kingdom as our own unending blessing and inheritance.
In his mercy here at Mass as always, he gives up his body for us to eat, and pours out his blood for us to drink, telling us to turn in mercy to do likewise for others.
Do this in memory of me.