Dear Parishioners,

Today’s gospel presents Jesus as the judge of the entire world. It reminds us that a day will come where we will stand before the Lord to give an accounting of our own life. Then we will either be invited to join Jesus’s flock or banished to be among the goats. Since this story holds our eternal happiness in balance, it would be wise for us to read it carefully.

A casual reading of this story might conclude that we are going to be judged on the way that we love other people. But the story is much more specific. In fact, this teaching of Jesus goes further than his other teachings on love and service. It goes further than saying we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. It goes beyond saying that we are to love others as Jesus has loved us. This story tells us that we are to love the least among us. Jesus says that what we do or do not do to the least among us is what we do or do not do to him.

This story calls us to serve the least, the lost, and the last. This is not our usual practice. We are comfortable serving those who we love and those who are close to us. It makes sense to us to love those who we like or who will love us in return. But Jesus is asking us to serve the least, the lost, and the last, and that means we have some searching out to do. Because the truth is that you and I do not usually live surrounded by the least, the lost, and the last. We have to find out where they are.

For some of us, the search is close at hand. It might be in our very families. There might be a son or daughter who is always last, who struggles to keep up or a grandchild that falls time and time again by abusing drugs or alcohol. There might be a brother or sister that has run afoul of the law. In this past week of Thanksgiving, when we think so much of family, Jesus is telling us that it is our role to feed and to clothe the least, the lost, and the last in our own families.

Who is the least at school or at work? Jesus is asking us to do more than simply love our friends and care for those who everyone admires. Who is the person that people shun or ridicule, the person that they avoid or dismiss? That is the person that Jesus is asking us to care for and to visit.

Who is the least in our country? It is not often that we will find those least in the middle class and socially responsible circles in which we live. We have to seek them out in the inner city, in a hunger center, at the borders of our country looking to come in and be a part of our society. We need only to look at the Father English Center in Paterson to see the least of our brethren. We need to seek them out because these are the ones that Jesus wants us to care for and to welcome. We have to search around the margins of society so that we can stand in solidarity with those who others considered disposable.

In today’s first reading, God is revealed as the one who seeks out the lost, who brings back those who have strayed, who binds up the injured, who heals the sick. This is why we must go out and search for the least, the lost, and the last. When we find them, we will find God. And—if we can trust today’s gospel—we will also find eternal life.

Fr. Monteleone

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