What You Do for the Least – Christ The King 2017

What You Do for the Least…

I can think of two contemporary matters in our purview this weekend that directly relate to this weekend’s Gospel (Matthew 25: 31-48). At first, both of these matters may seem like non-sequiturs so allow me to highlight and explain more about 1) the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and 2) the proposed tax legislation before the United States Congress.

Matthew 25 is a Gospel reading in which Jesus describes the last judgment. He presents to us that the standard for judgment will come not from right worship but rather from right action. If you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, etc. you are doing what the Son of Man wants and will enjoy the kingdom intended for you.

What does that have to do with either the CCHD or tax legislation? After all, the Gospel seems rather simplistic doesn’t it? Last week was the food drive. So if you gave to the food drive your all good. Right? Well not exactly. There is more to it than that.

Since May 15, 1891 with the publication of Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII, there have been reflections on today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 25) and other important works of scripture that have given rise to what we know as “Catholic Social Teaching.” This body of work explains to us that indeed scripture hasn’t changed since the time of Jesus but society has experienced profound changes. Social structures are different, the means of production are different, and the capacity for participation in society are different. Hence the response of the Christian toward those living on the margins must be different as well.

It is important to care for the immediate needs of those living on the margins. We call this “charity.” It is also important to correct the reasons human persons have been moved to the margins to begin with. This corrective action is called “justice.” The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is an organization set up by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to assist us in working on matters of justice, rectifying the wrongs that exist in our society that cause unemployment, poverty, homelessness, etc. So last week we were collecting to help the immediate needs (charity) and this week we are collecting to help the structural need (justice).

Now what about tax reform? When you read Matthew 25, or heard it proclaimed to you today, I am willing to be that you missed something that moved very quickly in the text. Here is the “gotcha” question for the week. “In the Gospel passage… who was being judged at the end of the world?”

The surprise answer is that “the nations” were being judged. In other words, the text does not imply that you and I are being judged separately. Rather the last judgment belongs to the nation to which we belong. Does our nation feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless, or welcome strangers? As lovely as it is that there are individuals who do this quite regularly, even in our own parish, the harsh reality from the Gospel is that their work alone is not enough to save our nation.

Now I have to move onto some shaky ground because I am writing this on November 17, 2017 for a bulletin to be published on November 26. I have no idea what will happen in the next 9 days before this reaches the pews at Saint Andrew. However as of today, if you have been reading the news from the United States bishops, you may have read that the leaders of the Church do not believe that the proposed tax bill in Congress is reflective of a Christian nation as exemplified in today’s Gospel Reading (Matthew 25). read more…

It is kind of surprising that the bishops who regularly raise voices in support of conservative measures (for example Pro-Life legislation) sound like bleeding heart liberals in regard to this tax legislation. No matter where your political alliances are or what you feel about getting a tax cut, the bishops have a responsibility for reminding us and our nation what the Gospel of Jesus says.

They remind us that we should always aim towards being a more just nation. A nation that can graciously be recognized by the Son of Man in the final judgment. A nation that works for justice for those on the margins and as a nation, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, shelters the homeless. I’ll be honest, I don’t know all the ways to get that done in our politics or our tax code, but I do know that it should be a constant effort to try our best to pursue the greater vision. I believe that is what the bishops have done by reminding Congress to do better than the current proposal. Personally, I give thanks that God is constantly reminding us that we can do better and always giving us another chance to do so.

-David Heimann, Pastoral Associate

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