Reflection for Monday 22nd February 2021

The Rev’d Penny Body

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Reflection 22nd February 2021
The Gospel – Matthew chapter 25 verses 31 to the end
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

In our gospel reading today we are offered descriptions of simple acts of kindness, generosity and encouragement. As William Barclay in his Daily Study Bible says – “they are things that each one of us can do” – sharing food and clothing, offering a drink and a welcome, caring for the sick and visiting the prisoner.
These are the acts of kind and generous hearts – instinctive and not offered with the expectation of any reward. Indeed the people who sit on the right or the left both ask – Lord when did we see you hungry or thirsty – a stranger, needing clothes or sick or in prison. They were not aware they were loving Christ himself in their actions.
When we see need – children malnourished, people sick or grieving, oppressed by war or dictatorship, prisoners of circumstance or addiction, people lonely and feeling isolated – whether on our television screens or in our neighbourhoods – kind and loving hearts are torn apart and broken – this is what compassion brings. Because as we are in Christ, and he is in us, so we are one with each other. Jesus came to and for the whole world and we are one with all our brothers and sisters. As Jesus identified himself with the poor, the hungry, the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, so we cannot look on others suffering in a dispassionate and detached way – yet the need seems so immense. What are we to do?
We cannot feed all the hungry and bring peace to every nation singlehandedly – but we can all do something in these small but loving and generous daily acts of grace towards friend and stranger alike.
And as we act instinctively to offer help where we can, not turning our backs or thinking there is a separation of some kind between us, we too can miraculously and unexpectedly find ourselves in a wonderful encounter with Jesus.
William Barclay finishes his reflection on these verses with the story of St Martin of Tours – one of my favourite saints because of my days working in Austria where St Martin’s Day on 11th November is a holiday with special celebrations with friends and family and a splendid traditional meal of goose, red cabbage and potato dumplings – it was a joy to share this special day with local friends.
St Martin was a soldier and one day when entering a city a beggar stopped him and asked for alms. Martin had no money, but the beggar was shivering with cold so he took off his cloak, cut it in two and gave half to the man. That night he had a dream and saw in the heavenly places the angels and Jesus among them. Jesus was wearing half a soldier’s cloak. One of the angels asked “Master, why are you wearing that battered old cloak? Who gave it to you?” and Jesus answered softly “My servant Martin gave it to me”.
So we remember that we too are serving Jesus in each other in all the simple, unassuming, loving kindnesses we offer – kindnesses I know personally are so abundant among the members of all our churches. Amen.
The Collect for the First Sunday of Lent
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are,
yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
ne God, now and for ever, Amen.

The Collect for St Martin’s Day

God all powerful,
who called Martin from the armies of this world
to be a faithful soldier of Christ:
give us grace to follow him
in his love and compassion for the needy,
and enable your Church to claim for all people
their inheritance as children of God;
through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

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