What a great privilege it was for the apostles and the other disciples to have known Our Lord personally and so intimately. I’m sure we all wish that we could have lived with Our Lord, and I think we feel that we would have been completely devoted to him.
And yet many people who knew Jesus personally either didn’t recognise him or failed to respond to him. And today it may be that we ourselves sometimes don’t recognise him or respond to him. We don’t have to wonder what it must have been like to live with Our Lord. The truth is he is living among us right now. He is present in this world not only in the Holy Eucharist but also in the people with whom we share our lives, those people whose faces we see every day and have to struggle to get on with.
Today Our Lord tells us that what we do to the least of his brethren we do to him. Now notice that he doesn’t say ‘as if’ we do it to him, or that he will ‘consider’ what we do to others as done to himself. We mustn’t dilute that truth. Our Lord lives in others and what we do to them, we do to him.
In the first reading we heard many practical directives for dealing with people, all of which are summed up in the commandment ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’. Among the Jews the word ‘neighbour’ was understood as referring to another Israelite, a fellow citizen. But Our Lord gave it a new meaning: ‘neighbour’ was to include everyone, not just our family and friends.
There’s not much point in daydreaming about how much we love Our Lord or in imagining all the great things we would like to do for him. We are right to seek him here in the Mass, but he is also all around us in the people we live with and meet every day. When our time of judgement comes, Our Lord will want to know whether we have loved him: not only by our worship of him in the liturgy, but also by finding him and serving him in our neighbour.