This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Taliban oppose polio vaccination, as reprisal for US use of it to trap Bin Laden
A Penitent Sufferer’s Plea for Healing
A Psalm of David, for the memorial offering.
1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger, or discipline me in your wrath.
2 For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head; they weigh like a burden too heavy for me.
Here is a person who has made himself ill because of his own wrongdoing. Tradition attributes the words to King David, who certainly did wrong at times. It’s also evident that the author believes he has put himself out of the sphere of God’s goodness. This is a desolating experience which nothing can heal except a convincing declaration of forgiveness. The conviction that God does not love you, that you live, as it were on the dark side of the moon, is dangerously destructive. I met it from time to time when I was a prison chaplain. Jesus’ announcement, “God’s rule is within reach; turn your life around and trust the good news!” needs to be heard by all such.
The Judgement of the Nations
31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?”40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.”41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?”45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’
This terrible profound parable has been with me most of my life, providing a sharp truth aganst which to measure my living. It continues to yield new truths over the years. Here are some:
1. The Son Of God is continually available to me in the neediest of my brothers and sisters. In them, I can either welcome him or reject him.
2. Nevertheless, I should not help because of this, but rather because they are my brothers and sisters in need. (The “righteous” are surprised when the Son of Man says they’ve helped him)
3.There shoud be no distinction with regard to needs such as that between deserving and underserving poor: the need is all that counts. (Remember, the judgement applies to “nations” as well as individuals)
4. The dirty actuality of need is important-“hungry….thirsty….naked….in prison…”: yes, I must support political and charitable means of help, but I must not for that reason refuse to deal with the beggar on the street.
5. No one is too low for Jesus to share his/ her life: he insists that all this is true of the “least” of his brothers and sisters.
6.In a book I’ve written about Bartolome De Las Casas, the 16th century Dominican monk who stood up for the “Indians” enslaved and massacred by the Spanish invaders, I picture him near the end of his life, reflecting on this parable:
“In this moment he is consumed with a cold hatred of every human wickedness, including his own, that permits, excuses, reluctantly allows, connives at, encourages, enables or delights in the oppression of one person by another; and all the patriotic, pious, political and personal claptrap by which those oppressions are justified. He suddenly thinks of the parable of the sheep and the goats, that story of fundamental separation of all that’s clean from all that’s unclean, and for the first time he finds himself identifying with the separation-no longer attempting to see himself as one of the sheep-but praying with all his heart that every ungenerous particle of his character should be consigned to the eternal flames so that the generous remainder might have life.”
Instead of identifying happily with the sheep or unhappily with the goats, he identifies with the SEPARATION, praying that all his goatiness should be burned away. That’s the meaning the parable has for me. The world Church remembers De Las Casas today.
As I was writing this blog I got news that my youngest brother Rory is in hospital today for a kidney transplant. If you have time, please join me in praying for him and for the family of the kidney donor.