Monday of the 1st Week of Lent

March 5, 2017

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.” Matthew 25: 31-46

Here St. John of the Cross focuses on the correct interior disposition for a work of charity.

“Speaking now of supernatural gifts and graces, as we here understand them, I assert that for the purgation of vain joy regarding them it is appropriate to note two benefits, temporal and spiritual, that are included in this kind of goods.

“The temporal includes healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, raising the dead, expelling devils, prophesying the future so people may be careful, and other similar things. The spiritual and eternal benefit is the knowledge and love of God caused by these works either in those who perform them or in those in whom, or before whom, they are accomplished.

“As for the first, the temporal benefit, supernatural works and miracles merit little or no joy of soul. When the second benefit is excluded they are of little or no importance to human beings, since they are not in themselves a means for uniting the soul with God, as is charity. And the exercise of these supernatural works and graces does not require grace and charity; either God truly bestows them as he did to the wicked prophet Balaam [Nm 22:20] and to Solomon, or they are effected falsely by means of the devil, as in the case of Simon Magus [Acts 8:9–11], or by means of other secret, natural powers. If any of these marvels were to be beneficial to their agent, they were those that were true, given by God” (A 3.30.3-4)

A characteristic of John of the Cross is to focus on our desires for food, clothing, shelter, glory, rest and so forth. For him, the real challenge of life is not so much as doing more, or less, but the cultivation of doing what the responsibilities in our state of life call us to do in a selfless manner. So, for him, if a disciple were to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, and so forth; and did these for his own joy and satisfaction, he would derive no spiritual profit from them. He would have already received his own reward by looking for his own self-approval in them rather than in the knowledge and love of God. In other words, those who draw attention to themselves for their own self-satisfaction lose their reward from God.

O Lord, through this Season of Lent, you invite us to recall your blessings and share them with those in need. Grant, we ask, that we may attend to those in need with a true selfless disposition that imitates the manner in which you have blessed us. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

We invite you to add your reflections and prayers in the comments section below.

Adapted from A Lenten Journey with Jesus Christ and St. John of the Cross by Fr. George Mangiaracina O.C.D.

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