By Fr. Roy Cimagala
“AMEN, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25,40) These are words of Christ that are worthy of engraving in our mind and heart. They spell out our duty to take care of the works of mercy, both spiritual and corporal, for these are a sure path to enter heaven.
And who are these “least brothers of mine,” the least brothers of Christ? These are the hungry and the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned, the stranger, etc. In other words, these are those who are suffering some difficulties and misfortune in life—the sick, the poor, the beggars, the ignorant. We have to be ready to offer them some help, convinced that by doing so, we are helping Christ himself.
This duty will obviously require effort and sacrifice. We have to train ourselves to see Christ in them, and to regard them as our brothers and sisters. We can expect to be inconvenienced or even disadvantaged, and we should be ready for that condition.
We can say that the more effort and sacrifice involved, the closer would we be in identifying ourselves with the spirit of Christ who even went to the extent of telling us to love our enemies.
This is what true love is all about, one that is fully given gratuitously, without expecting any return nor counting the cost. This is how we would be approaching our human perfection as image and likeness of God, children of his, sharers of his divine life and nature.
We have to be wary of our tendency to make rash judgments against those who are suffering certain difficulties and misfortune in life. We tend to think that they deserve their condition because they are lazy, or that they are suffering from some “karma,” or whatever.
We have to remember that only God knows the whole story of everyone’s life and condition, and ours is simply to help the way Christ told us to do so. We have to be wary of the tempting thought that by helping them, we would be enabling their dependence on us.
Rather, let us just reach out to them and help them all the way. We obviously are limited in helping them materially, but definitely there is no limit in the help we can give them spiritually, through our prayers, mortifications and sacrifices. We can offer whatever work we are doing at the moment for them. It’s really just a matter of expanding our heart to accommodate what Christ told us about helping the least of our brethren.
We also have to be wary of our tendency to simply pursue our own interests while treating the works of mercy as a peripheral duty to be attended to only when the occasion arises. Especially these days when we are egged to be self-indulgent, we need to make extra effort to be able to follow what Christ told us.
We have to learn how to give ourselves to others gratuitously the way God gives himself to us gratuitously. To start developing this basic attitude, we need to consider what God has gifted us in the first place. He has given us the ‘gift of life,’ and together with it, the gifts of faith, hope and charity. He has given us the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit, and many other, endless things.
As if often said, “we are gifted to give!”