February 19, 2018
First Monday of Lent
It’s worthwhile thinking about what Jesus doesn’t say in this great parable in Matthew.
Of course, this isn’t the only thing Jesus ever says or the only parable he ever tells or the only gospel, and we have to take all of it into account, and the tradition of interpretations, and the teachings of the Church which are drawn from these texts and drawn from these traditions.
But still, it’s worth noticing what Jesus doesn’t say we have to do to get to heaven.
He doesn’t say what we have to believe, what doctrines we have to adhere to, what dogmas we have to understand and argue for. Nothing about that.
He doesn’t say anything about what we’re supposed to feel, in prayer or at mass, or about other people, or about ourselves.
He doesn’t say anything about what Church we have to belong to or what school of thought within the Church we should adopt as our own.
He doesn’t say what political party we should join.
He doesn’t say anything about the way the liturgy should be celebrated or what music should be played or how the communion lines should flow or whether we should receive in the hand or on the tongue.
He doesn’t say we have to be smart. Apparently, we don’t need Ph.D.s.
He doesn’t say we should be married or celibate. Nothing about sexual behavior at all.
He doesn’t say we have to go someplace far away and do something heroic for him or spectacular for him. Nothing about adventures. Grand gestures. Public displays of piety.
He doesn’t say how much money we should make or what kind of house we should live in or car we should drive or clothes we should wear. Whether we should be rich or poor, famous or obscure.
He doesn’t say anything about what men should do and what women should do. Nothing about gender, one way or the other.
He doesn’t anything about a lot of things we’re always talking about and worrying about and arguing about and texting about and tweeting about and posting about and losing sleep about.
All of us. All the time.
He says something radically simple, something completely challenging, something any one of us here can do and have done but that seems so small and ordinary and mundane we just can’t believe that’s all there is to it, something so small we make excuses and let it go, something so simple we stop thinking about it, something that doesn’t necessarily make us feel good, something that doesn’t necessarily make us look good, something that doesn’t necessarily score any points with the people we want to score points with.
He says: feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Welcome the stranger. Clothe the naked. Visit the imprisoned.
That’s it. That’s all.
And then: Come! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!