People’s basic material needs have to be taken care of before any kind of higher life is possible. But in many countries these needs have been taken care of. Does this mean then that the words of Christ about feeding the hungry or clothing the naked are no longer relevant? No indeed.
In Mother Teresa’s memorable words: “The worst disease in the world today is the feeling of being unwanted, and the greatest evil is lack of love. What the poor need even more than food, clothes, and shelter, is to be wanted.” Hence, the words of Christ are as relevant today as ever. We might put them as follows.
The King will say to those on his left: “Depart from me, for I was hungry, not for food but for a smile, and all I got from you was sour looks. I was hungry for a word of encouragement, but all you did was criticize me. I was hungry for a word of appreciation, but you didn’t give me so much as a crumb.
“I was thirsty, not for drink, but for a word of recognition, but all you did was nag and give out to me. I was thirsty for a sign of friendship, but you ignored me. I was thirsty for a little companionship, but you never gave me a drop.
“I was a stranger, and you refused to have anything to do with me. I was a child and you forbade your children to play with me because my clothes were dirty. I was a neighbor, and you wouldn’t allow me into your club because I wasn’t in your class.
“I was naked, not because I lacked clothes, but because I lacked self-worth, and you refused to cover me. I was stripped of self- confidence, and you made me feel the chill wind of disapproval. I was naked from the loss of my good name through a story that wasn’t true, and you refused to clothe me with the garment of truth.
“I was sick, not in body, but with doubt and worry, and you never even noticed. I was wounded by failure and disappointment, and you couldn’t care less. I was sunk in depression, desperately needing the medicine of hope, and all you did was blame me.
“I was a prisoner, but not behind iron bars. I was a prisoner of nerves, and you shunned me. I was a prisoner of loneliness, and you gave me the cold shoulder. I was a prisoner of guilt, and you could have set me free by forgiving me, but you let me languish there to punish me.
Then the King will say to those on his right hand: “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father. For I was hungry for a smile, and you gave it to me. I was hungry for a word of encouragement, and you praised me. I was hungry for a word of appreciation, and you thanked me.
“I was thirsty for a word of recognition, and you took notice of me. I was thirsty for a sign of friendship, and you wrote me a letter. I was thirsty for a little companionship, and you stopped to chat with me.
“I was a stranger, and you made me feel welcome. I was a young a person from a bad area, and you gave me a job. I was socially inferior to you, but by your acceptance you built me up.
“I was naked for the want of self-esteem, and you covered me with self-worth. I was stripped of self-confidence, and you dressed me in the cloak of confidence. I was naked from the loss of my good name through a story that wasn’t true, and you clothed me in the garment of truth.
“I was sick with doubt and worry, and with your cheerful attitude you lightened my burden. I was wounded by failure and disappointment, and by your supportive attitude you healed me. I was in a pit of depression, and by your patient attitude you gave me hope.
“I was a prisoner of nerves, and through your attitude of calm you set me free. I was a prisoner of loneliness, and through your friendship you released me. I was a prisoner of guilt, and through your forgiveness you broke the chains of my guilt.
There are lots of things we could do if we were more aware and more sensitive. It’s not so much a question of giving things, but of giving of ourselves – of our time, our energy, and our love. Thus we will serve Christ and help to build his Kingdom.
In the evening of our lives we will be judged on love.