Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who was the National Director of our Pontifical Mission Societies from 1950-1966, once famously said, "Never measure your generosity by what you give, but rather by what you have left." He hoped to help people understand that when you give to "the least" among us, what you have left is a deepening of your faith as well as a gratitude for what you DO have.
On Christ the King Sunday, the Gospel reading reminds us that at the end of the world, we will all be judged by our actions. Christ will separate people into two groups: the goats and the sheep. We can imagine that the goats are the people who have taken good care of themselves during their lifetimes. They have been well-fed, housed, employed, and in general, lived comfortably. So far, so good. The problem arises when they turned a deaf ear to people in need -- the hungry, homeless, and those living on the margins of our world.
When Jesus tells them that they did not look closely at those rejected people -- because if they had, they would have seen Him -- they object. No! Surely Lord, if we KNEW it was you, things would have been different! Their cries are not enough to save them.
When we think of Jesus turning to the sheep, we can see Him soften. These people saw the trouble in the world and tried to rectify it. They cared for the poor, visited the imprisoned, fed the hungry, and in doing so, shared their faith in a generous, caring God with others. They looked at others and saw the Face of Christ. They are rewarded.
At that moment in the Gospel, most people are probably silently examining themselves, "Am I a goat or a sheep? To which group will I be herded?"
Missionaries will remind you that the story is not about you; it is about the third group of people in the Gospel. Not the goats, not the sheep, but "the least" of our brothers and sister. That's where Jesus stands, hoping we will join Him.
Our ministry at the Pontifical Mission Societies is one of invitation. We share the stories of the missions -- of people who are hungry for food and the Bread of Life; of children who need clean water and the Living Water of Jesus; of people who wander and need a welcome to our family of faith.
Then, we invite you to stand with Jesus, and serve "the least" of our human family knowing that whatever you give, you will be doubly blessed in return. Begin on 11/28, Giving Tuesday at www.propfaithboston.org.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.
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