‘WHEN DID I SEE YOU NAKED?’ (Mt 25:31-46): 11 February 2008 (Monday)

‘WHEN DID I SEE YOU NAKED?’ (Mt 25:31-46): 11 February 2008 (Monday)

Today’s Readings

I remember it like it happened yesterday.

One rainy afternoon ten years ago, I was walking on campus on the way to class when I saw her.  Even from a distance I already caught sight of her–an old woman standing in the rain and–I could have sworn–watching me.

As I approached her, I nodded a greeting.  When she murmured something under her breath before I could pass her, I stopped and turned, looking at her for the first time.  

“May I have your shirt?” she asked.

I stood there stunned by the unexpected request.  Thoughts running through my head:  “She can’t be serious!  She can’t expect me to take off my shirt and give it to her right here in the middle of everything on campus!”

It wasn’t the shirt, you see.  It was just a crazy, foolish thing to do.  So instead of giving her my shirt, I gave her directions to an office on campus that took care of such requests.  But the woman only kept smiling even as I quickly waved goodbye.

As I began to walk away, I felt it–the moment slipping away.  Did God come visiting, begging, and I was too busy, too wise to respond?  I looked back, but the woman was no longer there.  It was odd—how my shirt was warm on the outside, but cold inside.

I knew it then.  It was a mistake, this choosing to be wise.  I regret it, this reluctance to be foolish and crazy.  Being wise kept me from responding to that rare moment when Christ appeared out of nowhere asking for something, from availing of that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give to him literally.  I wish I had remembered our Lord’s words in today’s gospel, when he said, among other things:  “For I was naked,  and you did not clothe me.”

The people who heard him say that in the gospel account responded by asking, “When did we see you naked and not minister to your needs?”  When I come face-to-face with the Lord, I will have many questions.  But that will not be one of them because I know exactly when I saw him naked.

Whenever I look back at my life, I regret not only the wrongs I have done, but also the good things I wish I had.  Like this one.  But if I could, this is how I would rewrite that episode:

Once there was a man who was walking on a road one rainy afternoon.  All of a sudden, he caught sight of a woman standing in the distance.  He could have sworn that the old woman was watching him.  So as he was about to pass her, he smiled and, trying to be polite, murmured a greeting.  But the old woman, who stood there drenched in the rain, murmured something back.  The man stopped and turned and looked at her.  And the woman said to him, “May I have your shirt?”   He studied the woman’s face, trying to read between its lines and creases, and as he stood there, he listened to the rain.  And because it was his habit to listen to the rain, somewhere in the sound of rain falling, he heard the beating of his own heart. And because it was his habit to listen to his heart, between every heartbeat he recognized the beating of another heart, a heart other than his own, a heart much greater, much more vast.  And he recognized that it was the Heart that held the world, the Heart that embraced all the world’s deepest dreads and desires.   And his own heart danced and expanded, and he quickly removed his shirt and handed it to the woman.  And he walked away from her, cold and naked in the rain.  But he felt joy.

(image: www.arts.ualberta.ca)

A Quick Question for you:  “Do you remember any incident when you could have–but did not–do something good and lived to regret it?”  Think about it, and share a thought, a feeling, or a question.

Here’s a Quick Thought on yesterday’s poll:  As of this writing, there’s no clear majority choice among the three “drugs” or temptations.  Just goes to show that we have different weaknesses and are vulnerable to different temptations.  The important thing is to know what our Achilles’ heel is because that’s where the devil will most probably train his arrow.

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