July 4: St Elizabeth of Portugal (Mt 25:31-40/46)




            In today’s gospel, Matthew describes the coming of the King-Messiah, who transfers his chosen ones from his kingdom to the kingdom of God, his Father and theirs.


            The basic outlines are taken from Ezekiel, where the Shepherd-King judges “between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats” (Ez 34:17). His judgment will not take exceptional works into account, such as prophesying, casting out demons, or working miracles (Mt 7:22-23), but he will acknowledge the works of mercy.


            Matthew lists these works, first positively following Isaiah: “to share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, to clothe the man you see to be naked” (Is 58:7), then negatively following Job: “men go naked now through your despoiling; you have grudged water to the thirsty man, and refused bread to the hungry” (Jb 22:6-7).


            Matthew may have taken his cue also from Sirach (Ecclesiasticus): “Stretch your hand out also to the poor man ...Share the grief of the grief-stricken. Do not shrink from visiting the sick” (Sir 7:35-36).


            Jesus, the Saviour, is everyone’s judge. He judges us all by our charity. Those also who have never known Jesus Christ can make contact with him, because, by the fact that they were born human, they have their likeness in Jesus. Whether they know it or not, their every act of love is directed at Christ, since everyone is a brother or sister of Christ.


            For that reason, non-Christians of goodwill, faithful in carrying out the tasks of their lives, and willing to serve others, share in Christ’s redemption.


            Those who live a truly authentic love of others possess something of God himself, even if they think that God doesn’t exist. Where there is love and goodness, God is there. In the earth’s little ones whom they care for, God is there and in fact they meet him.


            This gospel has been chosen for the feast of St Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal, because she lived from moment to moment in view of her meeting with Jesus Christ, who presented himself to her in the sick and the poor. Like her grandaunt, St Elizabeth of Hungary, after her husband’s death, she entered the Third Order of St Francis. In addition to her heroic dedication to the poor and oppressed, she was a great peacemaker between the members of her royal family. She died while reconciling her son to her son-in-law.