Mother Teresa and her organisations Sisters of Charity lived by this parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Her mantra was 5 words, “You-did-it-to-me.”
When He returns Jesus separates the sheep to the right and the goats to the left.
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25 v 41-45)
Apart from the obvious differences that stand out: Goats not sheep, depart not come, cursed not blessed and did not do instead of you did, there are 2 similarities.
The first is the sheep and the goats are both surprised.
Jesus has been demonstrating through his parables the surprise of His return to everyone, whether that is a wedding guest, a foolish virgin with no oil in her lamp, or a one talent servant who hadn’t done anything with what had been given him.
But the surprise with this final story is primarily about not noticing the presence of Jesus in their activity of life: “‘Lord, when did we see you …”
As well as praying that Churches will see outpourings of God’s presence perhaps we should simply begin to see Jesus in every person we meet today. How different life would be? In every person. The ones who have different opinions to us, the ones who beg on the street corner, the ones who annoy you, the least as well as the greatest, the sinned against and the sinner. If we began to see Jesus in them then maybe they will begin to see Jesus in us?
I wonder how life might be different if before we launch out with anger or hurtful criticism at someone who hasn’t met our standards we look up and see Jesus.
That will not happen if all we see is me.
Perhaps Jesus is nearer to us than we realise.
And maybe that is the point.
(The second similarity is for tomorrow)