Salvation through simple acts
Feast of Christ the King

Al Cariño
November 24, 2002
Reproduced with Permission

The gospel reading (Mt. 25, 31-46) for this year's Feast of Christ the King reminds me of what I read recently concerning a modern king who was deeply loved by his people -- King Baudouin of Belgium who died in 1993. Why? Because he himself believed in true love for people -- from the unborn child to the dying patient.

To cite some instances. Once, when parliament approved an abortion law, the king refused to sign it preferring to risk losing his position as king than act against his conscience as a Christian. There was also the story of a dying patient's last wish -- to see the king. On receiving the message, he promptly visited him. On another occasion, while driving alone in the countryside, the king, without regard for his safety, picked up a hitchhiker and took him to his destination. From these instances we can see that the king was more comfortable with the simple things he could do for others rather than with the prestige of his office.

Obviously, King Baudouin strived to live according to the standard Jesus sets for judging us at the end-time when He will come again, this time as our Judge.

How will we be judged? Before answering this question, I would like to mention what I used to tell my students at the beginning of each semester when I was still teaching in college. I told them that I did not make their grades. They did. I merely recorded in the form of grades their performance as students -- their participation in discussions, the papers they submitted, and the results of their examinations.

On judgment day, we will be surprised to know that our performance while alive had already been made. It was made by the person who begged us for food and drink, by the sick person who asked us for comfort and care, by the prisoner who longed for our visit and concern, by the stranger who asked us for shelter from a cold night, etc. Jesus as Judge merely affirms their performance evaluation of us.

Why? Because Jesus hides behind these vulnerable people. More, Jesus identifies Himself with them: "Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me." Thus any kindness done to a person, however lowly and primarily because he is lowly and therefore ignored by society, is kindness done to Jesus Himself. On the other hand, Jesus will say to those of us who did nothing for them: "What you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me."

We are thus judged not for the positions we hold in the community, our social status, academic records, wealth, heroic deeds, etc. Neither will we be judged by the number of prayers we say daily unless they lead us to greater love of God which in turn leads us to the service of the poor -- "the least brothers of mine." Rather, we will be judged for very simple acts -- giving a cup of water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothing to provide warmth to the naked, a visit and giving of care to the sick and prisoner, a warm bed to the stranger, etc. In short, Jesus' standard of judging is the compassion and kindness we extend to Him in the many faces of the "least of my brothers." Because each one of us can do any of these things, then it is possible for all of us to "inherit the kingdom."

The Gospel tells us that on judgment day, both the blessed and the cursed share one problem: "Lord, when did we see you hungry, etc.?" With this, we are asked to interpret what we see in the needy. If we see Jesus in them and extend assistance to them, then we will be judged favorably. If not, then we will be condemned.

Obviously, society was less complicated when Jesus spoke of His standard for judging us. These days, though to give water still means actually giving it to the thirsty, etc., it can also mean working together for a community well or an irrigation canal or conserving water so that others will have more; to feed the hungry and clothe the naked can mean creating employment and making green again our naked mountains; to visit the sick can mean supporting a home for the aged or street children and promoting the culture of life; and to visit prisoners can mean working for the discriminated and marginalized of society. These are some of the ways we can extend our compassion to the needy among us today.

The Feast of Christ the King is the occasion for us to give glory to the Lord of Heaven and Earth. What better way to do so than to do simple things for the "least of my brethren." To gauge how well we are faring in this regard, let us answer this question right now: If Jesus comes as Judge right now, will He be able to say to us, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom?" If not, then we still have a lot of work ahead of us.