Who Are The Least Brothers Of Mine?
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today’s solemnity of Christ the King ends the liturgical year and our series on A World Beyond in this month of November. Matthew (25: 31-46) is the only one who records these words of Jesus Christ about his Second Coming. Jesus makes a grand entrance reflecting the vision of the prophet Daniel who saw the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven. This is no longer a vision but a quasi-reality. When the Son of Man comes in his glory, then he will sit on his glorious throne. He comes as a king, from the realm of his Father to fulfill the Father’s plan of salvation. He speaks with great authority because it is He who will come. He comes with all the angels and will be in the presence of the Father.
The setting is like a Greek tragedy; everything is very precise. His very presence separates like darkness from the light in his work of creation. To enter into the joy of your master is impossible without this separation. Only those separated from themselves and who put on Christ have the capacity to enter into the furnace of divine love. He separates them infallibly; there is no question of appeal. It is like a liturgy with six action verbs in a few lines: he comes, sits, assembles, separates, places them on his right, and gives an inheritance.
This gospel is not a parable. The sheep and the goats are a metaphor, a comparison. It is quasi-reality and the king, angels, the Father, and people of all nations are present. Then he is presented as a mere pauper: for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty…And everyone is there, all creation, all men and women of all time and despite the magnitude we get it; we know that it is true.
“Come, blessed of my Father,” Jesus says. You can hear the joy of the King who has toiled so long for this day. Inherit the kingdom for those who became his sons and daughters. The kingdom will be yours!
The part of the gospel that struck me the most is this phrase: whatever you did for the least of my brothers. Who is this referring to? There are the angels, and all humankind who are separated to the right and the left, so who are the “least brothers of mine?” It can only be the angels, not the ones with wings, but those who are messengers, which is the original meaning of the word angel. Jesus is referring to the ones who came to announce the Gospel: the apostles, disciples, you and me. He is speaking of those who witness to him. Jesus himself is the one who is hungry, thirsty, naked on the cross, and in prison. St. Francis was at first repelled by the leper who saw in town but later on he had the grace to embrace him and kiss him, and when he did so he saw the face of Christ.
All priests, parents, uncles and aunts, friends are called to be shepherds. And those who hunger and thirst for the sake of Christ and his gospel are the least brothers of mine, the little ones. They are the ones who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who are persecuted and insulted for Christ; the ones who embody the Beatitudes. These are the ones who Jesus speaks about: what you did to one of these you did to Christ. The Church is not a social welfare program. A disciple, a Christian, is one who is like Christ, who shares in his cross for the sake of the gospel. When we do a work of mercy it is fundamental to do it for Christ, not for accolades or to be noticed, but for the Lord.
St. Paul says a Christian becomes the refuse of the world, one who lowers himself for the sake of others. This kenosis, this self-emptying, is what makes us like Christ. It takes a life time. It is not something you and I can do. It is something that God does to you, if you allow him. Pray that you and I can become one of the least brothers in order to be a witness of Christ, to speak to those around us of God.