Fr. Michael's Thoughts on Biblical Imagery: End of the Year

FR MICHAEL BIBLICAL IMAGERY

(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)

“END OF THE YEAR”

End of the year normally refers to end of a Calendar Year and this is precisely on 31 December. But in other spheres of life, we have end of Academic Year, end of a Business Year, end of Legal Year and others. In the Catholic Church when we talk of end of year, we refer to the end of the liturgical year; and so today we end Year A (2019/2020).

The Church year closes with the great description of the Christ’s Last Judgment. He appears as “King” of mankind, sitting on the “Throne of his glory.” Two motifs are found throughout the immense painting: the first and central theme is that everything we do or do not do to the least of his brothers is done or not done to him. The second theme is found right there: if the first theme is the absolute criterion, then those who undergo judgment must be completely separated into right and left, eternal reward and eternal punishment. Thus, the second motif depends on the first one, which provides the decisive teaching given by the entire tableau: the judging, glorious King knows his solidarity with the least of his brothers – who are simply very stately and imposing. Christ makes common cause with the hungry and the thirsty, with aliens and the homeless, with the unclothed, the sick, and the imprisoned. Only in such solidarity is he King, as the One who has sovereignly climbed down to the lowest and most shameful human situations and become acquainted with them. Each person, whose life will someday be examined by the Judge, should ponder this constantly: in the most miserable of our fellow men we have already met our Judge.

As men we are all members of a single body, sharing with each other solidarity in our being, something we must be aware of and behave properly toward. You ought to “share your bread with the hungry, give shelter to the homeless, clothe the naked you see, and not turn your back on your own flesh” (Isaiah 58:7).

This Gospel passage is one of the most vivid parables Jesus ever spoke, and the lesson is crystal clear – that God will judge us in accordance with our reaction to human need. His judgment does not depend on the knowledge we have amassed, or the fame that we have acquired, or the fortune that we have gained, but on the help that we have given. And there are certain things which this parable teaches us about the help which we must give.

It must be help in simple things. The things which Jesus picks out – giving a hungry person a meal, or a thirsty person a drink, welcoming a stranger, cheering the sick, visiting the prisoner – are things which anyone can do. It is not a question of giving away huge sums of money, or of writing our names in the annals of history; it is a case of giving simple help to the people we meet every day. There never was a parable which so opened the way to glory to us all.

It must be help which is uncalculating. Those who helped did not think that they were helping Christ and thus piling up eternal merit; they helped because they could not stop themselves. It was the natural, instinctive, quite uncalculating reaction of the loving heart. Whereas, on the other hand, the attitude of those who failed to help was: ‘If we had known it was you we would gladly have helped; but we thought it was only some insignificant person who was not worth helping.’ It is still true that there are those who will help if they are given praise and thanks and publicity; but to help like that is not to help, it is to pander to self-esteem. Such help is not generosity; it is disguised selfishness. The help which wins the approval of God is that which is given for nothing but the sake of helping.

Jesus confronts us with the wonderful truth that all such help given is given to himself; in contrast, all such help withheld is withheld from himself. There were two men who found this parable blessedly true. The one was St Francis of Assisi; he was wealthy and high-born and high spirited. But he was not happy. He felt that life was incomplete. Then one day he was out riding and met a leper, loathsome and repulsive in the ugliness of his disease. Something moved St Francis to dismount and fling his arms and the face of the leper changed to the face of Christ.

Another great example is the generosity of St Martin of Tours to the poor. When we learn generosity which without calculation helps others in the simplest things, we too will know the joy of helping Jesus Christ himself. The Calendar Year is also really close to the end, have to thought of helping someone? You may be assessed at the end of your life with it. Generosity is a knowledge that everyone understands; be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate.

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