I have to admit it: I cringe a little every time Matthew 25 comes up in the readings. If I’m honest with myself, most days I feel like I’m more of a goat than a sheep. More times that I can count, I have failed to feed the hungry, to welcome the stranger, and to visit the prisoner.
So, in some ways I myself am one of the sheep that needs to be sought out, brought back, and healed, and there is comfort in that for me—Christ is always ready to give us a second chance, to heal us so we can do better next time. God speaks of himself as a shepherd, but I couldn’t help noticing how similar the actions of the shepherd in Ezekiel 34 are to the actions of the sheep in Matthew 25: both are going out of their way to care for those in need.
And so I wonder if Ezekiel’s reading is not only promising God’s care to the downtrodden, but calling us to action as the Mystical Body of Christ.
We’ve all heard the quote attributed to St. Theresa of Avila: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours . . . Yours are the hands with which he is to bless his people.”
Part of the reason I often feel like a goat is that I find it easy to excuse myself from these actions. And honestly, we moms do spend a good part of our day feeding the hungry and clothing the naked toddler who has just learned how to take his pants off.
But I think as mothers we are also called to more than this. We have to teach our children how to be the sheep, how to be the Mystical Body of Christ. No matter how many times they hear this reading at Mass, watching us is how they will learn what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Some of you are no doubt much better at this than I am, so please excuse this paltry offering. Nevertheless, here are a few of the small things my family has done to try to serve Christ in the poor.
-Writing to someone in prison
-Keeping water bottles and granola bars in the car to give to those who ask
-Smiling at a person standing on a corner
-Calling a sick relative
-Grocery shopping for someone in quarantine
I’m an introvert to start with, so just making eye contact with someone standing on the corner with an “anything helps” sign is difficult for me. But if I can’t even do that, how can I hope to meet Jesus in the poor? My only hope is that, as Christ is the good shepherd for “the least of these,” he will teach me to be the shepherd he calls me to be.