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Monday of the first week of lent - MT 25:31-46: THE VALUE OF CARING FOR THE POOR
By Augustine Agwulonu
Mon, 15 Feb 2016

Monday of the first week of lent - MT 25:31-46: THE VALUE OF CARING FOR THE POOR

"Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."

God's chosen people, Israel, took care of the poor as part of their religious observance in Judaism. One such form of care is expressed by almsgiving. We see a clear evidence that this was so from Jesus's teaching that almsgiving should be done in secret (see Mt 6:2f).

According to today's Gospel reading it can be said that Matthew deepened and developed the teaching on the religious practice of almsgiving in Judaism. Firstly, he expanded it to include everything given to those in need of them: food, drink, shelter, cloth, visiting the sick and those in prison, etc. Secondly, Matthew assigned a Christian face to the practice of helping those in need by teaching that Christ identified with those who were assisted to be his very self. Christ showed himself as needy in the poor, the homeless, the less privileged, the sick, and those in prison. In this way Matthew defined his christology of the Christian charitable and corporal acts of mercy.

With this same Gospel passage, Matthew expressed his eschatological teaching about Christian charity and cares for the poor. These acts were done, not just to satisfy the immediate needs of the poor people, but they also had their eschatological effect. They were ways of expressing the hope of being accepted by Christ in his kingdom on the last day. They defined the path of service to Jesus. They took providence to its logical and final conclusion, as they prepared one to inherit the kingdom, which God prepared from the foundation of the world. They were ways to a final union of friendship with Jesus. And finally, they were the path to eschatological divine surprises.

Would any believer wish to ignore such beckoning light of hope, love and union of friendship in God's Kingdom on the last day? No! With this demonstration, Matthew encourages us this Lenten season to take our observance of almsgiving and other acts of charity very seriously. The reason is because, by doing that, we not only identify with Christ who is in the poor, but we also prepare to enjoy God's Kingdom in its fullness on the last day.

But for now also, believing and expecting the benefits of almsgiving and charitable acts to the needy fill us with the joy of anticipation for salvation and peace in God's eternal Kingdom. This will be a source of energy and inspiration to engage ourselves even more for humanity and for the world. 


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