The True Spirit of the Lent.
As the Lenten season and observance continue, many Christians in one or the other are participating in it. Many Christians indulge in many practices during the Lenten season.
The gospel of today, though it has an eschatological character, reveals what the true spirit of lent is. During the Lenten season, so many Christians do works of charity. Some others fast and pray. While some others sacrifice or give up certain luxuries.
The gospel of today reveals to us that amidst the different practices that we do during the Lenten season, we should not neglect the true and undefiled religion.
In James 1:27, Saint James says Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Therefore, the true spirit of lent is not only when we pray and fast. It is not only when we keep our Lenten observances, etc. The true spirit of Lent goes beyond these to include how we take care of the people around us.
This is especially the poor, the suffering, the downtrodden, the naked, sick.
It involves feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, visiting the sick in the hospitals and taking care of the orphans.
It also involves saving the depressed and clothing the naked, visiting prisoners and giving water to the thirsty.
Therefore, as we do and observe our Lenten sacrifices, let us not forget to include giving out to the poor. Let us also extend some corporal works of mercy.
In today’s gospel, all those who are in the right and left of Jesus Christ prayed, fasted and even shouted the name of Jesus but what differentiated them later is the number of corporal works of mercy, works of charity and love they showed to others during their times on earth.
James calls this the true religion. This is what God never neglects. In 1 Peter 4:8-10, God says “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. This is what truly makes us Christians and differentiates us from others.
The Gospel Digest.
In the gospel, Jesus was narrating to the disciples what they should expect when He comes again. In essence, his coming back will be a time of retribution and judgment for all.
He said to his disciples that when the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory.
All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.
Then He will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.”
Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you as a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?”
Then He will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”
Next, He will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.”
Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?”
Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”
‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.
What truly separated the sheep from the goats is this “what to do, to the least of these little ones”.
The Missing Point.
In the gospel of today, Jesus says whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers you do unto me (Matthew 25,31-46).
Least as a word indicates the smallest in amount, extent, or significance. Therefore, whatever you do to those people you think you are better off, whether good or bad, can determine your fate at the end of life.
The true spirit of lent revolves around this because Jesus came to die and suffer for us. The summary of the lenten season is Jesus’ love for us. This love led Him to the cross. Therefore, to show the true spirit of the lent, we have to do the same to others.
This is where many of us miss it. We can pray down fire from heaven but deep inside our hearts many of us lack love.
Today, We can pray from morning till night, yet many of us maltreat the little and young servants and widows living with or around us.
So many Christians fast from morning till night, yet they live in hatred and wickedness. They are not happy to see something good happening in the lives of other people. When they see that someone is progressing, they will be the first to block it.
If we are in this, we are missing the point. It is not the spirit of Lent.
Paul calls us in 1 Corinthians 13:1, a resounding or clanging cymbals and good for nothing Christians. All our efforts are in vain.
Therefore, our Lenten observance must be accompanied by true love, works of charity and corporal works of mercy.
Whatever We do to the Least is done to Jesus.
Jesus says categorically today that whatever we do to the least of our brothers, we do it unto Jesus.
When you mistreat that orphan staying with you, when you secretly fight against that widow, because she has no one to speak for her, always know it is Jesus you do. When we try to take advantage of that poor fellow, know that it is Jesus you do.
In the gospel, it is very clear that all the groups claim to know Jesus but something separated them later.
It is clear that both groups A and B may have prayed a lot, healed many, prophesied but there was a missing point that separated the two.
It is undebatable that we have many wonderful Christians but the question is ” how do you treat the people around you? Sometimes what we do to others can be a blessing to us.
Do not be surprised also that many today have lost their opportunities for blessings and graces. This may be due to the way they treat those they think have no future.
Do not be surprised that the standard for our judgment is how we treat the people we are supposed to help.
Let us not neglect this as we do our Lenten observance.
Show more love to people. This is the true spirit of lent. It is a time of mercy, giving, love and works of charity.
As we read this, do not start thinking of the person that refused to help you, think of the ones you have refused to help.
Many people may have missed angelic presence because of our hatred and wickedness. The bible says “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. ( Heb 13:2) and when Abraham fed the angels in Genesis 18, hardly he knows He has entertained angels and God’s promises to Him became fulfilled through that angelic visitation.
The secret to our blessings can be through how we treat that poor fellow around us. In whatever we do, let us remember to extend love, care and service to those around us.
We have many prayer warriors but we lack charity warriors, we lack peace warriors, we lack love and forgiveness warriors.
Hatred, jealousy, wickedness, backbiting have been the order of the day. We have strayed from the missing point. Let us think about this.
The gospel today also reminds us that despite how mighty we think we are on earth, there is someone we are serving. We are merely servants who must surely give accounts of our stewardship to Jesus.
May God bless us dearest and be with you in all you do. Amen