“When you do it to the least of these my brethren, you do it unto me.”
The vineyard pictured above was our backyard for a couple of days during a recent stay in the Napa valley. The vines are arranged with military precision. They receive lavish amounts of attention and no resource is spared to insure they produce the best possible grapes. Truth is, these vines receive better care than most people.
Of course, there are certain advantages to talking care of vines. They don’t complain, talk back or resist efforts to provide for them. Vines present certain challenges, to be sure, but they stay where they are put and generally do not exhibit annoying, unlikable personalities. Not so with people. That is not to suggest that some people are not provided for simply for what can be gained from them. But this is not caring.
To care is to have regard for the whole person, warts and all. And it’s not easy because most of our inclinations are in the direction of self-care. Over the centuries the Church developed into an institution that could be relied upon to care for those whom it was easy to forget. Monastaries and churches became places of sanctuary where countless lives found compassion, healing and support during some very dark and brutal times.
God calls us in Jesus Christ to be a caring community. This caring can and does run in many directions and it is not always welcome when it arrives in the neighborhood. It is good, then, to remember that our Lord’s compassion and caring was not always met with gratitude. But that was not His motivation, to be thanked. He cared for others because it is in the nature of love to do so.
Christ Jesus left His Church with a powerful image of caring that challenges the faithful of each generation. Surveying the hungry, thirsty, naked and imprisoned He turns to us and says, in effect, ‘When you care for them, you care for me.”
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep you hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”