Who Christ Prioritizes

Who Christ Prioritizes

BY JORGE PALACIOS JR. | November 27, 2023
Sunday’s Readings

I remember being in high school, leaving a baseball game with a group of friends, when I was scolded by one of them. I had just given what little cash I had to a man standing outside asking for change. “You should know better, he’ll probably use that money to buy drugs or alcohol. That’s why I only give leftover food to people asking for handouts.” In the moment, I was confused by their words, by their judgment of me and the man. So, I pivoted the conversation to safer waters, like video games.

In light of this story, this interaction in Sunday’s Gospel reading really struck me. 

“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?”

“Whatever you did for one of the least siblings of mine, you did for me.”

These actions were not motivated by wanting to help or serve a poor or suffering Christ, but by serving a poor or suffering stranger. This is exemplified by the surprise in the encounter (“When did I do this, Lord?”). Only when the deed has long been done do we realize that Christ was there.

Who Christ Prioritizes

Christ, in this imagery of the King of all Kings sitting on a throne, aligns himself with the poor and suffering. No wonder Matthew 25 shows up in the work of so many liberation theologians and is even quoted in Pedro Arrupe’s, “Men and Women for Others”. But the understated thing here is our role. 

There is not much nuance in Christ’s words. Jesus doesn’t say, “I was begging for money, and instead you gave me half a hotdog.” None of that is to diminish that the intent is to do good, and the action may even be met with sincere gratitude. But often it is good to be reminded that, despite our best efforts, we cannot see the whole picture from the outside. In the work of justice, we know who Christ prioritizes. 

Kendrick Lamar, when put into a similar position of being approached for money by a stranger in the song, “How Much a Dollar Cost,” concludes, “I’ll tell you just how much a dollar cost/The price of having a spot in Heaven, embrace your loss.”

*(Kendrick Lamar’s song, “How Much a Dollar Cost”, has some strong language but is worth the listen.) 

For Reflection:

  • Think about a time when someone asked you for help. How did you respond? Given the opportunity, what would you do differently if asked again? How does this fit into your understanding of justice?
7 replies
  1. sonja
    sonja says:

    Think of a time when someone asked me for help. In Austria homeless shelters are only for Austrian citizens. One day I offered one night’s accommodation. For my hospitality I had my brand new cell phone broken and SIM card stolen, incurring a debt of over Euros1000 in toll calls. This naturally made me wary.
    In New Zealand I had often offered hospitality to strangers and they were always very positive exchanges.
    They say, “Once bitten twice shy”. But still I trustingly invited another stranger into my home. I ended up parting with the money for my airfare, because I trusted her story. When I accompanied her to the shop to buy what she said she needed. It was obvious she had no children. And she asked me why I was not angry with her. Giving, which entails personal sacrifice, unleashes a flood of the hormone Oxytocin. When one is filled with love, it is impossible to be angry towards others.
    Who knows what effect we have on others? Only God.
    Since then I have been more cautious. I start conversations with the homeless on the streets. Sometimes I am ignored. Sometimes I am met with anger. Sometimes I am in too much of a hurry to stop. And sometimes I am welcomed into their “home without walls”. There are always places to get food to eat. What most people actually need is a human heart to listen, understanding and love. For we are all social creatures at heart. While the conversation may have started out with begging for money, in the end we are both left better off without any money having exchanged hands. When we are really listened to, our hearts are filled with understanding and peace. It is about meeting each others’ real needs.

  2. Thea
    Thea says:

    As I was driving home yesterday after 5 days of caring for my aged parents, I had to stop at a highway rest stop. A man was speaking on his cell phone, very agitated, asking for help. He had left his wallet somewhere, had no money, was nearly out of gas, and hungry. I passed him by. When I emerged, he was still trying to get someone he knew to help. I told my husband of the situation and we walked up to him, gave him some cash and a bag of food we had in the car. He was so relieved that he could push on to his destination. Sunday’s gospel truly had an impact and I am thankful I had the opportunity to offer something to the least of my siblings.

  3. Jill
    Jill says:

    I used to be always equivocal about giving to people who begged in the streets or by the side of the road – I justified myself, well, I am just enabling them to get more of the substance that is killing them. then one day, I was in my car with an immigrant friend – a person without documents, working to raise 3 children then. And a man stood on the exit ramp, with his sign – I don’t remember exactly what it said. And she asked me to slow down, and roll down my window. She gave him some money. That day I learned from her the lesson – do not ask yourself if the person is deserving or worthy in your eyes. God said, for I was hungry, and you fed me.

  4. Cathe
    Cathe says:

    This reflection was thought provoking and beautiful – it also connects with today’s Gospel as well, the Woman who gave her coins.
    When we give, no matter how humble, how the receiver uses the gift can’t concern us. We need to give what we can. I do feel a few dollars and change enables the person to choose how to use it! That allows them autonomy. Buying them a fresh sandwich or even a fresh cup of coffee, shows you care deeply – and it isn’t giving something you no longer want!

  5. Dr. Eileen Quinn Knight
    Dr. Eileen Quinn Knight says:

    In coming home from the hospital after a check-up, the driver told me he was basically out of gas. I rarely have cash in my purse. Everyone should be able to give a credit card. This driver showed me the space where his car indicated he had very little gas. When we stopped at my place I found the cash for the ride and then gave him the cash to fill up his evening rides. He said “I need to give you some change” I said to him please put it in your gas tank. I knew that God had asked me to be generous to this person and I poured out His grace from receiving the Eucharust earlier that day. I am grateful to the Holy Spirit for letting me know how to use the grace Christ gave me.

  6. Andrew Lee
    Andrew Lee says:

    I believe God speaks to us in these moments. Sometimes there is a strong pull after walking by a person or situation to go back, so strong we can’t ignore it.

  7. Dr.Cajetan Coelho
    Dr.Cajetan Coelho says:

    Thanks George. Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sister – you do it to me, says the Lord.


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