Today we celebrate the last Sunday of the church year. Next week we begin our Advent celebrations to prepare for Christmas where we welcome Jesus coming to this earth as an infant. So once again our bible readings are focusing on Jesus return to earth – but not as an infant but in his glory to receive God’s children into Heaven. And what we discover in our Gospel reading today is that those whom Jesus gathers are totally oblivious to the great honour that is about to be bestowed upon them.
Often when you see a person win an award, they sort of know beforehand that they are going to receive it but they are supposed to look surprised for the cameras – WHO ME? But not in this situation. Here, those whom the King is calling into his kingdom have no idea what they have done in order to receive this reward. And what I like about this parable that Jesus tells is that it is so freeing.
Do you ever wonder about your salvation? These people didn’t. They just lived their everyday life loving their neighbour. They didn’t sell all their possessions and give to the poor. They didn’t leave their jobs and become missionaries. And it’s not as if they did anything out of the ordinary. They saw someone hungry so they gave them something to eat. They saw someone thirsty so they gave them something to drink. So natural was their actions that when the king called them in to receive their inheritance they look stunned.
On the other hand, the people that the king is critical with were not bad people. He doesn’t criticise them because they stole from people or because they murdered people. No, his criticism was because they just didn’t care. They were just like the first group that the king commends. Both groups didn’t see the hungry or the thirsty. The difference was that the first group didn’t need to see them. They just lived their daily lives loving and caring for their neighbour. It sort of reminds me of the Hebrews passage where we are encouraged to show hospitality to everyone: Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
It’s so easy to not see those around us needing our help. We are all busy. We all have so many demands on our time and resources. But those who were most effective in our reading were those who were not doing anything out of the ordinary. They didn’t spend extra time feeding the hungry but it simply became a part of their everyday life. This is the heart of God who loves the world so much that he didn’t hold anything back – he sent his one and only Son. It was so natural for God to do that because of his love for us.
And this is what separates us from the rest of creation. WE are created in the image of God to love one another as a natural outpouring of our love for God. Jesus said, the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength – and the 2nd is like it – love your neighbour as yourself.
You can’t keep the first commandment if we neglect the 2nd. When you are hungry the natural instinct is to get something to eat. When you’re thirsty, something to drink. When you’re cold, to put on a jumper.
God wants us to see our neighbour as an extension of our ourselves just as God sees us as an extension of himself. We are created in God’s image. In our neighbour we don’t just see an image of God though but of ourselves. So as we prepare for Christmas this year let us remember those for whom Christmas is not a celebration but a reminder of their situation of poverty and loneliness – lonely, hungry – maybe not in prison but trapped in their homes because of Covid 19 and let us be to them the hands and feet and love of God who held nothing back.