Reward or Punishment?

    A Jewish boy was lazy in his studies and misbehaved in the public school. So, his parents enrolled him in a Catholic school to see if he would improve.  His parents were surprised to observe that the boy stopped his excessive watching of TV, limited his time on computer games and spent most of his time in studies. At the end of the year, he was the best student in class.  His baffled parents asked him what had happened.     "The first day I went to school," he explained, "and saw that man hanging on a plus sign at the main entrance of the school building, I knew you couldn't fool around here and get away with it."

    Today's Gospel reminds us that the Man on the cross is not an object to frighten naughty kids, but our God, our King and Savior who died for us promising us eternal life; who will come in Glory to judge the world on the day of the Last Judgment.

    The Gospels tell us that Jesus is the long-awaited King of the Jews.  In the account of the Annunciation, we read: "The Lord God will make him a King, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the King of the descendants of Jacob forever and his Kingdom will never end" (Lk 1:32-33). In the Magi story we read, "Where is the baby born to be the King of the Jews?  We saw his star… and we have come to worship him" (Mt 2:2).

    On Palm Sunday, the Jews shouted "Blessed is the King, who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Lk 19:38).  When Pilate asked the question, "Are you the King of the Jews?" (Jn 18:33), Jesus made his assertion, "You say that I am a King.  For this I was born, and for this I came into the world to testify to the Truth" (Jn 18:37). The board hung over Jesus' head on the cross read: "Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews," (Mt 27:37). Before his Ascension into Heaven, the Risen Jesus declared: "I have been given all authority in Heaven and on earth" (Mt 28:18).

    A story is told of a priest assigned in a seminary who took his sabbatical year in Kolkata, India to work with Mother Teresa. Towards the end of his sabbatical, he wondered what he could take back to his seminarians. He remembered how Mother Teresa received Holy Communion: her eyes and face glowed with love for Jesus as she expressed the desire to give him back her love completely. As a priest he understood this well, but what he could not understand was seeing the same glow in her eyes and face when she was attending to a sick person. 

    Reflecting on these two experiences, the priest discovered why. For Mother Teresa, that sick person was Jesus himself. Jesus had said, "Whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me." Do we see Jesus' face in others, especially the poor, needy, marginalized, deprived, downtrodden, sick and suffering, and so on? Jesus meets us in their disguise. They are his true face. Our reward or punishment depends on how we have recognized and treated this risen Jesus in the needy. Let us treasure the opportunities we are given in order to be rewarded by the Lord.

In the Service of the Lord,
  Fr Thainese Alphonse


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