In today’s Gospel Story for the Feast of Christ the King (Mt 25:31-46) Jesus says what we did or did not do to the least of our brothers and sisters we did or did not do to him. As with all the Gospel Stories, there is both a “majority report”, what the Story has generally been understood to mean over all, and a “minority report”, what the Story says to each of us in the setting of our own daily living. There can be any number of minority report understandings of the stories simply because all of us reflect God differently on our journey, and so might hear the stories say different things.
On the other hand the majority report sees this Story as what will happen at the end of the world at the Last Judgement. It points to a future date and time, predicts a chronological event, and gives a sort of warning to be ready since we won’t know when it is coming until it happens. Which means we can pretty much keep it all on the back burner. It hasn’t happened in billions of years, so it probably isn’t going to happen in our time.
The minority report sees the Story not as chronological or historical, but more mythological, offering insight to how I am living here and now when I read or hear it. It’s about me and how I am called to live, not how I think other folks should live so I can feel good about it all. It can be pretty specific, a real experience, and can impact me so powerfully that I might see it in terms of my own apocalyptic last judgement and end of my world — but also the beginning of a new world for me in my here and now. Often such experiences are triggered by a significant happening in our daily living, the failure of a relationship, the death of someone important to me, some sort of a physical accident, illness, or event, something that really startles me and gets my attention, such as a cardiac event. What the majority report sees as fear inducing or a threat, I come to know as love filled and encouraging, a warm and caring, yet serious, call to look at where I am, what my priorities are, how I am being invited maybe to take some chances and move in different directions. The Army has a good phrase for something like this: fall back, adjust fire, re-engage.
I might become aware of a relationship, even a partnership, with or in a Good that, while real to me, I just cannot describe. As I hear Jesus telling me what I did or did not do to/for the least of the people in my life at any given time I did or did not do to/for him, the people in my life take on a whole different depth and dimension as Jesus being present to me, showing me who God is. Learning how to deal with all this is an adventure itself, quite a ride. I’m well aware of my choices and lapses. Seems just about impossible, but then there’s the Spirit, Wisdom, perhaps what we see as the feminine aspect of God.
As all this is happening in me, I seem to be coming to know a totality of Good that is at work in everything, even in the terrible nastiness and tragedy happening in so many places near and far around our planet. And in this Good, do I bear any responsibility at all for nastiness and suffering happening anywhere? Even locally? I’m well past the age where I can do things myself, or even make things happen. Am I being called to do anything to stop the suffering from happening, to keep people from being judged or hurt, even allegedly in the name of God who is creating everyone involved in this on all sides? What about when the people causing the hurt are good well-meaning people themselves? Do they even know or understand the painful impact of their decisions and actions? I suspect they don’t. They really feel they are right. What to do? I can recall the hurts I’ve caused others the times when I was in my self-righteous mode. I’d like to go hide. Thinking back to how I dealt with threats, physical and otherwise, at a violent part of my life, I just don’t want to be involved with that stuff any more. But as much as I’d like to, I don’t know if I can run away.
The whole experience of looking at my own transitus, my final passage from death to life, almost face to face but definitely up close and personal, as I sat in my car the other morning and popped a nitro to deal with the chest pain (“so this is it, how it happens”), is wreaking havoc on my thought processes. It was a very calm and peaceful experience, although the chest discomfort hurt and the relief effected by the nitro was very real and quick, almost unbelievably so. God was palpably and peacefully close. That was quite a morning, including being constructively criticized in no uncertain terms by a caring cardiac nurse for driving after taking a nitro. After that, things happened fast.
When the “perceived threat” is coming from inside myself rather than the outside, matters are greatly different. Been there, dealt with the outside threat(s), was changed. Don’t want to go back there. This is different. I think now my transitus and I, perhaps she and I, are on intimately friendly terms. We seem to have a nice relationship. Probably sort of a coping skill. I see this as a gift given to me to help others, and I ask the wisdom to know what to do. Writing about all this seems to me kind of bordering on the bizarre. Oh, well . .
The Verse we read to prepare to read this Gospel Story is, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. Really, this means everybody. We all come in the name of the Lord. How do I live this? The Gospel is not theoretical. Also, it’s not easy. And it’s not a suggestion. So, now what? I have some choices to make. Have they already been made, in a sense, for me? On the one hand I really don’t want to get involved in anything, yet on the other hand, hmmm. More wandering and wondering. It’s becoming a way of life. Just sayin . . .