Jesus was tempted to be a messiah of another kind, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his Lenten Reflections, a messiah marked by ” power, success, and dominion and not through the total gift on the Cross. This is an alternative messianism of power, of success, not the messianism of gift and selfless love.”
You don’t need to be hungry, or thirsty, or sick; you don’t have to die. You can be above all of that, Satan says. You can be in charge of the kingdoms of this world. You can be a religious leader who tells God what to do.
“Away with you, Satan,” Jesus says, and he leaves the Jordan Valley, not for Jerusalem, the center of religious and political power, but he goes to Galilee to proclaim the gospel of God m mto a people who “live in darkness and the shadow of death.” He goes to those he describes in today’s gospel (Matthew 25,31-36) as “the least:” the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, the prisoner. He identifies himself with those in need.
We have to follow him there. By caring for our neighbor in need, we not only see Jesus but are called into his kingdom. Still, how surprised are those who find him in this way: “When did we see you?…” The least are hard to see. To Mother Teresa, the poor and the needy were always “Christ in disguise.” You have to discover him there.
For St. Paul of the Cross the mystery of Jesus Christ is not something you know from a book, but through love, a love that embraces your neighbor, especially “the least.”
Writing to his family, he says: “Remember, you will never please God if you do not love one another. Let there never be any dissension among you, and, if ever any sharp words should pass among you, be quiet at once and do not keep on talking… So I repeat to you with Saint John: love one another, love one another, for in this is the love of God known. Show great love toward God’s poor.” (Letter 12)
Lord Jesus Christ,
may I see you in my neighbor,
especially in those in need,
and in those who seem so little like you.
May I love you in my neighbor
and find you in the least of them. Amen.