“Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” (Matthew 25:34)
I admire people who see other people suffering and just know how to reach out and love them. In fact, just before I went to bible study this week, I came across a quote from one of my favorite role models for this, Dorothy Day, that said, “Those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed.”
With this quote in mind, I honed in on the line above as I read this week’s Gospel. Jesus says that whoever loves those who suffer are blessed. And I don’t think he just means that they will go to heaven or even the warmth that comes from doing a good deed. We don’t always have warm fuzzies every time we help someone. For instance, while teachers, social workers, and doctors find their work fulfilling, truly loving some of their students, clients, or patients stems from a force of will rather than how much they like them.
I often struggle to love someone who is hurting. Either because of my desires for comfort or because humans are not always easily lovable, it can be hard to see Christ in others. When I pray, I know that Jesus will always have my best interest at heart and while he may ask hard things of me, it is ultimately for my own good. That’s different from even our family, our partner, or our best friends who are broken and have messy lives. But we can learn to love them because of our connections to them.
When it comes to the least among us, it is too easy to feel distant and less inclined to share a life with them. Society has marginalized them for various reasons, and our hearts sometimes follow suit. One idea that always challenges me whenever I feel like choosing distance is a line from the Les Misérables that says, “To love someone is to see the face of God.”
That is what I believe this Gospel means when it says these people are blessed. Loving others, especially those who are the most challenging to love, trains the heart to better love God. While this love may not always be emotionally satisfying, this love is transformative and leads to earthly and heavenly peace and joy.