During Lent we often hear from the pulpit that it is more important to do something for someone than it is to give up something we do. Yet, not only do we have a difficult time giving up our time and belongings, but we have a difficult time recognizing who truly needs us. Who is the “least” amongst us? And to remember that when we “do” even the smallest act of kindness or charity for someone that we may be looking at Jesus because He is everywhere, in each person we meet, in each person we know, but especially in the “least” among us.
From Matthew 25:31-46:
- “. . . And he will separate them one from another
- Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
- Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food . . . thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
- Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you . . .
- ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
- Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink . . .
- Then they will answer and say ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’
- And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
I think of this reading each time I see the beggar on the street corner. I think of this reading when I drive by someone who appears homeless and fail to extend a helping hand or to even say “Hi!” I think of this reading each time I pass by the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas and each time I pass up one of those “donate your change” jars in the grocery store.
And I know I have crossed the street and walked on the other sidewalk just so I didn’t have to walk past the beggar, yet alone offer my pocket change, change which I will spend for something frivolous, or stick in a piggy bank forever. Change which had I given it, I would never even miss it, change which would not have even been a sacrifice.
And yes, sometimes the cash will be squandered, and yes, sometimes I may be taken but the chances are that the beggar is just out of luck or maybe even put in my path just so Jesus can see what I will do with this message. How am I to know, and why should I be the judge of this person? Who is the least of my brothers?
So, if you are looking for a Lenten sacrifice: volunteer in a soup kitchen; go visit someone you know in the nursing home, send a card to a friend who you have been ignoring; clean out a closet and give away something nice—not the leftovers; or maybe even hand the beggar on the street corner your pocket change.
Lent is a time to go into the desert with Christ. We give our materialistic culture 325 days a year. Let’s give Jesus these 40 days to walk with Him and to change ourselves to be more like Him. It is said it only takes 21 days to create a habit; Lent is a great time to let God create “new” habits in us, to do something outside our comfort zone. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or a lot of money. We might even be doing that something for someone we know because at times we are all one of the least.
And remember: Jesus walked with the least of our brothers. Jesus was treated as the least of our brothers.
Dear God: Your words, Lord, are spirit and life. They are my guide book. Forgive me for the times when I ignore your words, when I ignore You on the street corner. Help me to always see you in the least of my brothers. Help me to sacrifice my time to those who bother me when I am too busy. Help me to pay attention to those who are least;those suffering from homelessness, from depression, who seem a little strange to me. Protect me from anyone who might have wrong motives and allow me to give up some small part of myself to see YOU in the least. Amen.