Lord, when did we see you . . . ? (Matthew 25:37)
Can you imagine arriving at God’s judgment seat, hearing his assessment of your life, and saying, “What are you talking about? That’s not how I remember it. When did I see you?” It would be like a bad dream.
According to today’s Gospel, one of the best ways to prevent this from happening is to examine how you treat the people around you. Jesus says that we should see him in other people, especially the poor, the prisoner, the hungry, and the foreigner.
A story about St. Francis of Assisi illustrates this truth perfectly. Thomas of Celano, one of Francis’ early disciples, described it this way:
So greatly loathsome was the sight of lepers to [Francis] . . . that, in the days of his vanity, he would look at their houses only from a distance of two miles and he would hold his nostrils with his hands. But now, when by the grace and the power of the Most High he was beginning to think of holy and useful things, . . . he met a leper one day and, made stronger than himself, he kissed him.
Writing about this incident himself, Francis said, “What had previously nauseated me became a source of physical consolation for me. After that I did not wait long before leaving the world.”
What happened to Francis can happen to you. But don’t think you have to make such a radical change overnight—or all on your own. Thomas of Celano attributed Francis’ act of kindness to “the grace and the power” of God. Francis may have taken one or two steps in welcoming people with leprosy, but he knew that he was able to embrace that man only because he was “made stronger than himself.” In other words, it was a combination of Francis’ decision and God’s grace that changed his heart.
Jesus is present in a special way in the beggar on the street. He is in the new student at school and in your coworker from another country. Every time you show mercy to one of them, you open the door to grace a bit more. Every time you show kindness, the Holy Spirit changes you a little bit more. And the path to heaven grows a little clearer.
“Jesus, help me to see you in every person I meet.”
Convert us, O God our Savior, and instruct our minds by heavenly teaching, that we may benefit from the works of Lent.