A couple of weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a friend when, all of a sudden, what seemed to me to be out of the clear blue sky, they said to me, "Zach, I want you to know that I really appreciated last Tuesday." Immediately, my mind sprang into action. "Last Tuesday. Last Tuesday? What did I do last Tuesday?" Although I tried to hide that puzzled stare that I'm sure emerged all over my face, my friend quickly figured out that I was lost. "The funeral that you attended last Tuesday. It really meant a lot to the family and it really meant a lot to me."
I have to admit, at that moment, I was more than a little embarrassed. It humiliated me that I would so quickly forget about an event as significant as a funeral. But it wasn't for lack of care and concern that I forgot about it. It was simply because I didn't consider my attendance at that funeral to be that big of a deal. I was there, not because I felt I had to be, but because I wanted to remember the deceased and lift up his family in prayer. Honestly, I never imagined the family would notice or care whether or not I was there. But I was wrong. Because they did notice. And they did care. And they appreciated it more than I ever thought they would.
In our reading for today from Matthew 25, Jesus offers one of the most famous and memorable descriptions of his second coming: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats" (verses 31-32). The sheep, of course, are those who are commended and brought to salvation. The goats, conversely, are those who are condemned and sent to damnation.
I have always found Jesus' commendation of the sheep to be especially fascinating:
"Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (verses 34-40)
Did you catch what the sheep say to Jesus? They say, "We did what again? You were hungry and we fed you? You were in need of clothes and we clothed you? You were sick and we looked after you? You were in prison and we went and visited you? We don't remember any of that!"
It seems as though the Last Day will, in some ways, echo my funereal forgetfulness. Because to us, so much of what we do just isn't that big of a deal. So often, just as Jesus instructs, we are so forgetful that our right hand doesn't even remember what our left hand is doing (cf. Matthew 6:3). But to Jesus remembers. And Jesus cares. Because to Jesus, what we do for others, we also do for him. And to Jesus, that is a big deal.
So today, recall something charitable, something gracious, perhaps even something life-altering you have done for another person and didn't even think about it until you were later reminded. And if you can't think of anything, that's okay. That just means you're doing great. You're not supposed to remember the good things you do anyway. But don't worry, you'll be reminded eventually. For Jesus will remind you. And Jesus will thank you. What a glorious day that will be.