As the Church’s liturgical calendar transports us through the Christmas season into Epiphany, we continue to meditate on the centrality in the Christian life of giving. Last month we gave thanks for the greatest gift ever – God’s gift of Himself, when the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity took on our human flesh and was born into the world in Bethlehem so that He might eventually give Himself on the Cross for our salvation. This month, we celebrate the arrival of the Magi from the east, who bring their own precious gifts to the Christ Child. These gifts carried by kings from the east represent the oblation that we must all make of our hearts as we kneel in homage to the King of Kings.
At that first coming in Jerusalem, Our Lord and King was clothed in meekness. Born in a stable rather than a palace, His throne on this earth would be the Cross, and His crown a wreath of thorns. He seems to have chosen that His Kingship should be something we must be free to embrace or to reject. But He has promised that there will be a Second Coming, on which occasion there will be no mistaking His Kingship. Returning in glory amid angels and clouds, His presence on that day will fill the skies from east to west. And the judgement that the world receives on that day from the King who comes in power will depend on the reception that the world gave to the King who arrived for the first time in the frailty of an infant’s flesh.
In St Matthew’s Gospel, Our Lord gives us quite specific details of the criteria that will be applied to us as individuals on that Day of Judgment. To those gathered at His right hand He will say: “I was hungry, you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” And when they ask Him: “Lord, when did we do these things for Thee?” the King will answer: “As you did it to the least of one of my brethren, you did it to me.” The reward for those on His right hand: “Come, Oh blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
But to those on His left hand – those who neglected Our Lord in His sick and in His poor – He will say: “As you did not do it for the least of these, you did not do it for me. Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
These very startling words leave no room for doubt: giving of ourselves in ministering to the disadvantaged can never be seen a mere supplement to a life of piety and devotion. God Himself has told us that our salvation actually depends on it. So we each have to ask ourselves this question: what can I do to minister to Our Lord in His poor and destitute?
Last November, we launched an appeal to our parishioners and regular worshippers. It was not an appeal for financial assistance, but rather for ‘human resources’ to assist us in our mission to the needy whom God brings into our lives. I would like to use this Provost’s Letter to extend that appeal to all of our readers.
Speaking with those who frequent the Oratory, it is clear that there are resources of expertise and good will in our congregation that can be put to excellent use serving Christ in His poor, and also with the running of this busy parish. The question we are asking everyone to pose to himself or herself is this: “Is there more that I could be doing for the good of the Church, for the community and for my own spiritual growth?”
To enable us to expand and co-ordinate our apostolate more effectively, we have enclosed a copy of a questionnaire in all of the hard print copies of The Oratory Parish Magazine.
The questionnaire gives you the opportunity to tell us ways in which you might be able to assist us in our service to the parish and in the wider community. Perhaps you can help us in a new project to assist in the rehabilitation of ex-offenders. Or you might be able to provide informal advice on debts or legal matters to someone who needs help. The list is long and varied. Other possibilities include organising a mothers’ prayer group, or hosting tea-parties for the elderly. There will also be resources of skill and expertise that can be of great assistance to us in the practical aspects of the running of the church and parish.
And we invite you to your express your own ideas of how the London Oratory fathers and faithful might collaborate together to give ever greater glory to God in our society.
At the London Oratory, we always aim to give to the King of Kings the worship that is His due with as much solemnity as we can muster. Beautiful worship is an important expression of our Faith in the God who comes to us on the Altar to feed us with His Body. But our Faith must also have practical expression, in our care for the needy and the sick. When the King of Kings returns in majesty to judge the world, the authenticity of the worship we have lavished on Him in the Oratory church will be gauged by the love and care we have extended to Him in the disadvantaged and the needy. Please respond generously to our appeal.