One of my favorite parables in the Gospels speaks of the shepherd who separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep were those nations (people) who lived lives according to the principles of love and compassion. The goats were nations who lived licentiously and selfishly while professing to follow God. When the separation had been completed, the goats asked why they were not included among the blessed on the right, the sheep. Scriptures of wisdom in Matthew 25 tell us that the King replied to the sheep, who lived by spiritual principles:
“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 took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.”
To the goats he admonished:
“For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.”
The beauty of this passage is that the compassionate who brought aid and comfort to others were doing it because that was their love for others in action. They had no ‘carrot on a stick’ promise of salvation for being caregivers to the less fortunate and, according to the writers of Matthew, they innocently questioned, “When did we do this for you? When did we comfort and nourish you?”
The King answered that what they had done to or for the least of his brethren, they had also done to him. That is the essence of the teachings of the mystics. We, the entire creation, are all one organism living on this earth to serve and care for our brothers and sisters, many of whom survive under environmental, political, and religious oppression. When I harm another being on this earth, I am harming myself. When I diminish the sanctity of another’s life, I am diminishing the holiness within me. When I refuse to provide mere survival essentials to my brother, I am thereby starving my soul and greatly grieving the God which dwells within me.
When hurricane Matthew in 2016 marched up the east coast of Florida, several evacuation shelters reportedly required the homeless seeking refuge from the fierce winds and rain to wear yellow wristbands while in the facility. They were segregated, allegedly denied the same courtesies and supplies as the others, and not given cots or blankets. One Florida county refused to admit to its shelters some homeless with prison records. The officials in charge cited that their intent was to keep them isolated from the law-abiding “good people”. What they did not consider was that most of “those” people, the homeless, were decent men and women with families who were in unfortunate situations of extreme need. The Lord of Christianity, Jesus, the Christ, would have probably been relegated to the segregated crowd to protect the good people.
Was Jesus law-abiding? According to the powers of Roman government and Jewish theocracy he was a rebel and a heretic. His stories in scriptures and a few correlating historical accounts depict him as a vagabond, a magician, and a homeless man roaming the countryside with a gang of other losers, misfits, and runaways begging for the essentials they needed to survive. They were viewed by the decent God-fearing society of the day as treacherous and dangerous, deserving of persecution and crucifixion. Not until centuries later did the Roman Church fathers clean up the person of Jesus, sanctify him and define him as divine.
Do I stand today with the persecuted and crucified? Am I truly a brother of loving kindness to my brothers and sisters who live in Syria, Puerto Rico, Florida? I want to be, I often fall short, but I pray that I never stop trying. How about you? Let’s change this world. We can do it one simple act of compassion at a time.
“And what is wisdom? Wisdom is knowing we are all one. Love is what it feels like, and Compassion is what it acts like.” Ethan Walker the 3rd in “THE MYSTIC CHRIST”