Answering The Question Of Our Lives

Christ The King Posters | Fine Art America

          One day there was a young man hiking across America standing on an interstate on ramp on the side of the highway in Gillette Wyoming.  It was snowing, and he had just spent the morning waiting out a blizzard in the town, and had been standing on the side of the highway a few hours when he saw a man making his way down the ramp toward him.

          The man was dressed in dirty, torn overalls, his hair matted against his head as though he had not bathed for days.  The young man put his hand in his pocket on a canister of pepper spray that he kept there for unwelcome visitors and dogs.

          “You been here long?” the dirty man asked.  The young man nodded.

          “Where are you headed?”

          “California,” the young man said.

          “It’s warm out there,” said the dirty man.

          “Yup.”

          “You got enough food?” said the dirty man.

          The young man thought for a moment.  Clearly the dirty man did not have any food.  And if the young man admitted that he had food, the dirty man would want it.  That would mean the young man would have to open his backpack, display all of his expensive camping gear and photography equipment.  The young man was afraid; he felt vulnerable and ripe for pillage.  “I got some cheese,” the young man said.

          “You won’t make it to California with a little cheese.  You’ll starve.”

          The young man did not understand and kept his hand on the pepper spray, his thumb moving on the safety switch.

          “Believe me, I know; listen,” said the dirty man, “I’m living in a car back in town and every day I walk to the mine to see if they need me.  Today they don’t, so I won’t be needing this lunch.”

          The young man began to sink with understanding.  The dirty, homeless man knew that a little cheese would get no one anywhere.  “I am O.K.  Really.  I don’t need your lunch,” said the young man.

          The dirty man shook his head and opened the box.  A typical church meal – a bologna sandwich, an apple, a bag of chips.  And the dirty man insisted that the young man take it and began handing it to him.  Finally the young man took the lunch and watched the dirty man walk up the ramp back into town.

          Later that young man wrote a book.  In fact he has written a number of books.  This is something he wrote: “I learned a lot of things in college.  I learned a lot of things in Europe and in Mexico and in my hometown of Belmont, Massachusetts.  But I had to stand out there on that frozen piece of interstate to learn generosity from a homeless man.”

          That young man was bestselling author, Sebastian Junger, author of “The Perfect Storm”; perhaps you have seen the movie.  Moments like this one on the side of a frozen highway, and others in his life, later moved him to create a foundation that cares for families of the New England fishing industry.

          Today is the feast of Christus Rex – Christ the King – and we find Christ sitting on the throne of judgment in Matthew’s Gospel separating the sheep and the goats.  Sheep are separated from goats in the ancient world, because sheep are more valuable than goats.  In today’s Gospel, Christ the King sits over humanity discerning the value of those who will enter the Kingdom that is coming.

          Matthew is pointing out the sort of measurement that will be held over each person as they face Christ, as King and Sovereign.  Where doth true worth lay?  What is the “real” estate of humankind?

          Matthew is making things clear, very clear, to the point of repeating himself, lest anyone claim to have not understood.  The significant measurement, the “real” estate, in the presence of Christ the King at the end of our days will be how well we have cared for the hungry, the thirsty, strangers, the naked, the sick and prisoners; those without power, without means, without sanctuary, who live among those who have all these things in abundance.

          Christ the King identifies himself with the powerless in such a way that our attitude toward them will reveal how we really feel about Jesus.  They are His test for us. 

Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

          They are His first brothers and sisters, and we are brought into the family of the Kingdom by how we acknowledge and care for them in our midst.  Given such a prospect, we need always to ask ourselves about those mentioned in this parable; where are they in our lives?  Where is the hungry person in my life?  The thirsty?  The stranger?

          And there is more, lest we fall into any position of self-justification, Matthew emphasizes the unselfish love that ought to animate us.  The critical and strong emphasis is in caring for the least without looking for some glorious reflection in the mirror of self-righteousness; no walking up the stairs to the throne, and side-glancing in the mirror – “Oh, don’t I look good in righteousness today.”  

          Self-forgetting love; love that does not cast a shadow, the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, is what the King is looking for in his friends, those who have chosen to serve Him. 

          It is a portrait of the most beautiful of loves – something that is so much a part of one’s behavior that we are embarrassed at their mention; surprised that such gifts given to the lowliest were also gifts given to Christ.

When was it that we saw you sick, naked, hungry, in need, in prison?  I just can’t recall . . .”

          The wealth, security and love that God gives to us in life is meant to be given away for the good of those who do not have these gifts; and they are to be given with all the self-forgetfulness that joyful confidence invites.  If we cannot give, then we are bound, and we will reach the end to find that we have served the wrong King, labored for the wrong “real” estate. 

          Christ the King will honor us if we will honor Him; His demand is not too great for any of us.  Christ our King would like for us to be where He is, and to follow Him.  Every day He sends messengers and guides into the world marking paths into His Kingdom; sometimes they look like a homeless man walking down a frozen highway.

          Certainly each one of us could manage a bologna sandwich on a cold day.  The question for us may be, “Given that you had so much . . . my friend, given that I gave you so much . . . why did you give me so little?” 

Or as one of the old saints once said, “God judges what we give . . . by what we keep.”

          I believe that Jesus is sharing this glimpse, into a moment that lay in all of our futures, as a gift – a gift, giving the opportunity for discernment.  What sort of life am I going to live?  The life of the better offer that I often choose for myself, or the life from God that happens to choose me?

          I believe that Jesus is sharing this glimpse with us so that we might have coordinates if we ever find ourselves lost and searching for God in the midst of our lives.  And honestly I have not met the person who in some sense would like to be “found” by life’s deepest and most beautiful meaning.

          None of us is living such a hermetically concealed life that we are not sometimes gently, or not so gently, interrupted by the wound of human need that walks through the world.  Sometimes the answer to the question to our life’s deepest meaning is simply a matter of letting God speak to us in the midst of the interruptions. 

          During an extended visit with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, Dr. Mary Poplin discovered the depths of sin in her own heart. It happened while Dr. Poplin was trying to care for a five-month-old infant who was deformed, constantly sick, and often miserable. Dr. Poplin always found ways to avoid feeding this child, but one day it was unavoidable.

          She writes:

          When feeding time was over, the babies were falling asleep in their bassinettes, and I was getting ready to go …. I glanced at the infants on my way out [the door] and noticed that undigested formula was dripping out of this child’s bassinette. He had thrown up what must have been the entire eight-ounce bottle. Looking around for someone to tell as I left [the room], I saw no one in the infant area, and the few adults in the room had their hands full with other children.

          So I decided, with no little struggle, to stay and clean up the mess. I put on my apron again, lifted the baby out of his bassinette and helped him on my shoulder as I began to gather the dirty sheets together and use them to wipe up the mess. As I was cleaning, I heard a muffled sound from the infant in my arms. Tears were pouring out of his eyes, and the only sound he could make was a convulsive sob.

          As I looked at him, I saw in myself what Jeremiah called “the desperate wickedness of the heart.” I realized I had approached this task with a spirit of resistance and impatience. I had thought very little, if at all, about this child and his needs, other than to be clean. As I threw the sheets into the laundry pile, I began to bathe his little misshapen body and change his clothes.

          Afterward I held him to me tightly as I … looked at him, rocked him, and prayed …. In a short time, he was asleep ….

          I must tell you that the moment I saw him weeping and realized the wretchedness in my heart, I knew it was sin.

          There was no doubt in my mind that this is what Christ meant when he said, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts.” I asked Christ to forgive and change me.

          In those moments as I rocked the baby, I could feel Christ’s work inside my spirit just as surely as if he were sitting next to me.  Mary Poplin, Finding Calcutta (InterVarsity Press, 2008), pp. 82-83

Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world . . .

Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

5 thoughts on “Answering The Question Of Our Lives”

    1. My Friend – Great to hear from you and thank you for “tuning in” via the Blog. I hope that y’all are blessed this Advent, and perhaps we can get on the phone to catch up. Brotherman – you are blessings me. Godspeed. Alston

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