“Lord, when did we see you?” ask the sheep and goats in today’s final parable of Matthew’s Gospel on this last Sunday of the liturgical year. There’s a tone of surprise in it, as if neither sheep nor goat knew they had had a close encounter with their king before that final judgment day.
We put so much attention on the different outcomes of that same question that we might overlook one thing. The dividing line is not first and foremost between sheep and goats but between the entire herd (all of us) and Jesus, who has been standing with and in place of his least ones all along.
At any given moment, Jesus waits for me to cross the line I have drawn that separates me and my concerns from the needs of the very person before me. Whether I cross that line or not in that instant, I will not know that was Christ until the day the king answers the question, “Lord, when did we see you?”
Some days, by God’s grace, we find the courage to draw close to the one we would have passed by, seeing in them our Lord and King. Yet the invitation to God’s reign is not given to those who recognized the king and acted but to those who showed mercy wherever mercy was needed most.