Discerning the presence of God

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Readings: Leviticus 19:1-2. 11-18; Matthew 25:31-46

"In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me." (Matthew 25:40)

St John Chrysostom in his preaching emphasised the connection between the worship of God in church and the recognition of the divine presence in those who are poor. He makes this point in vivid language: "What is the use of loading Christ's table with gold cups while he himself is starving?" and "Would you honour the body of Christ? Do not despise his nakedness; do not honour him here in church clothed in silk vestments and then pass him unclothed and frozen outside."

Today's readings insist that being holy means not only imitating the holiness of God but showing love to one's neighbour. Leviticus recognises that holding back a worker's wages or slandering your neighbour offends the holiness of God. In the Gospel we are told that the criterion for the last judgement will be doing or neglecting to perform acts of corporal mercy. But the surprise is that Jesus identifies himself with those who are naked, sick and in prison.

In Lent we are summoned to be holy as we prepare ourselves for celebrating Easter. We may try to pray more and read our bibles and if circumstances allow come to church more often (albeit on Zoom or Facebook live). But we are called to see the connection between what we do in church and what we do in our daily lives. And to remember that holiness means honouring the body of Christ on the altar and then showing the same respect to him when we encounter him among those who are poor.

Prayer
Lord Jesus, you taught us to love God and to love our neighbour. In this Lenten season may we recognise and respond to your presence both in our worship in church and among those who are poor in our world. Amen.

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