“What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments
is not the truest of guides for human life?” ~Saint Benedict, from the Rule of Saint Benedict (73:3)
“If in Christ we have been tempted, in him we overcome the devil. Do you think only of Christ’s temptations and fail to think of his victory? See yourself as tempted in him, and see yourself as victorious in him. He could have kept the devil from himself; but if he were not tempted he could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.”
Monday, February 23 ~ First Week in the Season of Lent
Saint Polycarp of Smyrna, Bishop and Martyr
Holy Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Meditation: Jesus’ parable about goats and sheep must have both amused and surprised his audience. Goats and sheep shared the same grazing ground during the day, but had to be separated at night. Goats were less docile and more restless than sheep. They came to symbolize evil and the expression “scapegoat” has become a common expression for someone bearing blame for others. (See Leviticus 26:20-22 for a description of the ritual expulsion of sin-bearing goat on the Day of Atonement.) Separation is an inevitable consequence of sin and judgment. The Day of Judgment will reveal who showed true compassion and mercy toward their neighbor.
Prayer: God of all creation, who were pleased to give the Bishop Saint Polycarp a place in the company of the Martyrs, grant, through his intercession, that sharing with him in the chalice of Christ, we may rise through the Holy Spirit to eternal life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Contemplation: This parable is similar to the parable about Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man, who let Lazarus die on his doorstep, was doomed to crave for drops of cold water he had not thought of giving to the poor man. When Saint Martin of Tours, a young Roman soldier and seeker of the Christian faith, met an unclothed man begging for alms in the freezing cold, he stopped and cut his coat in two and gave half to the stranger. That night he dreamt he saw the heavenly court with Jesus robed in a torn cloak. One of the angels present asked, “Master, why do you wear that battered cloak?” Jesus replied, “My servant Martin gave it to me.” Saint Martin’s disciple and biographer, Sulpicius Severus, states that as a consequence of this vision Martin “flew to be baptized.” God is gracious and merciful; his love compels us to treat others with mercy and kindness. When we do something for one of Christ’s little ones, we do it for Christ himself. Do you treat your neighbor with mercy and love as Christ has treated you?