Sunday, November 23, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

We have all probably loved or cared for someone in our life so much that we declared: “If he’s not welcome here, than neither am I” or “If you don’t let her play, then I don’t want to play either.”

Our response says: “to not accept my friend is to not accept me.”

Jesus not only speaks in this manner, but he says two more things which clearly makes this one of his most demanding teachings. It is also the testimony of his manner of living.

First, he identifies not just with his friends, or with those whom he loves or those who love him. Rather, he identifies with the least, the most “insignificant.” He tells us that what we do to them we do the same to him.

What we fail to do to and for them, we fail to do to and for him. In so doing this, he lowers the bar of loving and caring to include everyone.

At the same time, he raises the bar of expectation so that our lives, clearly, are called to become lives of love, service, caring, generosity, compassion, outreach, understanding, forgiveness, reconciliation and respect. He is seeking nothing less than total transformation of our thinking and acting.  

Second: he makes this issue so important that he presents it as the condition of our judgment. He describes the scene in which these words are spoken as the judgment scene with the Son of Man seated upon his throne. There could not be a more frightful or definitive place to speak these words.

In other words, Jesus means for these words to be taken quite seriously. And why would he not? Isn’t the safety and salvation of all in this life dependent upon this kind of caring? If individuals and whole peoples can end up being the least and most insignificant, doesn’t this teaching grant them the possibility of hope? Isn’t the opposite of this hope simply suffering and despair?

Imagine proclaiming this passage in prison or on death row. Imagine hearing this spoken to us by our worst enemy, or by the person whom we cannot, or will not, forgive. It seems to be an impossible teaching! It is way too much to expect! Unless, of course, it is meant to invite us to become more like Christ himself and to transform us into a people who love one another as God loves us.

So says Jesus: “I have the words of everlasting life!”

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email

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