“In a world that is unfortunately afflicted by the virus of indifference, works of mercy are the best antidote.”
– Pope Francis
I love the holiday season. I love the food. I typically enjoy some extra time off from work and a slightly elevated social calendar with family and friends. However, as Thanksgiving approached this year, I happened to find myself in various conversations with friends and coworkers relating to family dysfunctions ranging from the silly to the scarring. I am very blessed in both my family of origin and of marriage. We are not without our quirks and baggage, but, more or less, everyone cares for each other and enjoys each other's company. As we got ready for Mass on Christ the King Sunday, my wife and I chatted about how rare our family seems to be. We then proceeded to trade war stories we had heard from others in our respective circles.
As I listened to the Gospel from Matthew which I must have heard at least a thousand times before in my life, I couldn’t help but fixate on the phrase “for one of the least brothers of mine.” Jesus is sharing with his disciples what will happen when “the Son of Man comes in his glory” and how the goats and sheep will be separated by how they (we) cared for “the least” among us. Without question, for all my life, I have understood “the least” to be literal strangers – the poor, the homeless, the incarcerated, the homebound. Until Sunday, I never once thought of those from whom I was estranged. While I would never dare name which of my two actual brothers is my least favorite (you know who you are), am I mindful of the distances that exist between those in closest orbit to me? Am I actively working to increase that patience, to decrease that frustration, to pray for the grace to forgive? Am I aware, that for me, “the least of mine” may be in my family or circle of friends? Perhaps with the person I struggle to love, the issue is not knowing too little, but knowing too much.
I’ve lived enough life to know that some relationships are not healthy and that it’s best for some people not to interact. Perhaps as we enter the Advent season, some of our first steps might simply be to invite the Lord to change our hearts from anger to pity, from frustration to freedom. Let’s plead in earnest that He opens our eyes to see Him in the least, however far or close we are from them.
Prayers that your Advent brings you the most grace spiritually as we work to care for the least with mercy.
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