Readings: Ezek. 34:11-12,15-17
1 Cor 15: 20-26,28
On September 10 1946, a young Albanian Loreto sister was on a train journey to Darjeeling in India. Suddenly she had a mystical experience, hearing very clearly the words “I thirst”.
“Mary, my Mother give me your heart so beautiful, so Immaculate, so full of love and humility that I may be able to receive Jesus in the Bread of Life, love Him as you loved Him and serve Him in the distressing disguise of the poor”.
Her prayer is at once Eucharistic, Marian and Ecclesial: Mary is Mother of the Church and through the Church she is Mother of all humanity, as Pope St John Paul II wrote (Redemptoris Mater). All are children of God, despite our divisions and separations, whether these are spiritual, moral or physical. And the Eucharist, the Bread of Life is the great Sacrament of Unity. The call to quench the thirst of Jesus, His thirst for souls, is for everyone. He wants to unite all into Himself, into His Body, into His covenantal bond, and no one is to be excluded.
From the very beginning, the first chapter of Genesis and the creation of Man in the image and likeness of God, we learn that God has wanted to dwell with us in an everlasting covenantal bond of love. Indeed, all of creation is ordered to the covenant, which is simply a familial dwelling of God with His people. We learn from the Book of Exodus 31:16 that the sign of this everlasting covenant is the Sabbath, which is meant to be a “living memorial of the original perfection and intention of God’s creation – His desire to ‘rest’ in communion with creation”, as the Biblical scholar Scott Hahn wrote. According to Cardinal Ratzinger: “if worship, rightly understood, is the soul of the covenant, then it not only saves mankind but is also meant to draw the whole of reality into communion with God” (The Spirit of the Liturgy, p.26). The whole of the history of salvation as recorded in the Bible, from the act of creation in Genesis 1 to the Book Revelation where we read of the one who is Faithful and True, the Lord of Lords and King of kings, is the history of one great continuous Divine movement towards a full communion with God to be realized fully in eternity, that He may be “everything to everyone” (1 Cor 15:28). But we are not there yet! There is much work to be done.
A Gospel text used by Mother Teresa in furthering an understanding of her vocation, which is really everyone’s vocation, is the text we have for today. Here Jesus gives us an account of the general judgment at the end of time when all the nations will be gathered together before the King of kings, who will separate them as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. This is the last act of history, the first act of the age to come. And the ones who Jesus particularly draws our attention to are all those who suffer in anyway: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, those in prison – in a word: everyone! All suffer in one way or another. The list, though focusing on the least or the most miserable or pitiful of people, is not exhausted. And by His cross and resurrection, Christ has opened His sufferings to man, because He Himself, as Pope St John Paul II wrote, “in His redemptive suffering has become, in a certain sense, a sharer in all human sufferings” (Salvifici Doloris). This has given a new spiritual depth to the meaning of suffering – “redemptive suffering” because of the Resurrection. We cannot therefore be oblivious to suffering without being oblivious to Christ Himself. The “sheep” are those who are docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their search for God, seeking to do His will in their lives in upbuilding the Church through the bonds of charity.
We can see once again in our present crisis of this pandemic that, in a real sense, straying humanity is being led back again to discover how it is that suffering unites – both to Christ and to one another – and is a key to the meaning of life. May we be able to unite in the Magnificat of Our Lady and receive the abounding mercy of God who puts down the mighty from their thrones and exalts those of low degree, the meek and humble ones. People need to hear of God’s loving mercy for all, and how it is that we may receive His mercy. For this God is thirsting, thirsting to show us His mercy, if we ourselves are merciful to those around us. Be merciful, even as our Heavenly Father is merciful (Cf. Lk. 6:36).