In the Gospel Reading Jesus says that some people will come to him confidently, but he will say to them, “I don’t know where you are from. Go away, you evildoers!”
This must be one of the most frightening passages in the Gospels.
But if we get fearful and ask, “OK, then, what do I have to do in order not to be sent away,” we are on the wrong track entirely.
God does not hate anything that he has made; he loves it. (See John 3:16). So you don’t have to rush out to bring sandwiches to the poor or do anything else whose purpose is to work your way into God’s love and forgiveness. The gift of God’s love and forgiveness are already there for you.
But then why are those people in the Gospel passage sent away? If the gift is already there, then why don’t these people get it?
Well, no gift can be given unilaterally. Successful gift-giving takes two: one to offer the gift, and one to receive it. If you refuse the gift God offers you, the gift cannot be successfully given, can it?
So maybe the whole problem with these people who are sent away is their determination to do the right stuff in order to be part of the in-group. If you want to achieve for yourself what God is offering as a gift, you are in effect refusing the gift, aren’t you?
And maybe that’s why Jesus says to these people, “I don’t know where you are from.” If you accept God’s gift of his forgiving love, then you are in Christ; and the spirit of Christ is in you. You don’t have to come from anywhere to him. You are your beloved’s, and he is yours, as the Song of Songs says (Song 6:3).
So what you have to do in order not to get sent away is nothing. Just receive the gift, open to the Lord, let the Holy Spirit of Christ in. Then you might bring food to the poor, or write a book, or compose a symphony. But however you share your gifts, you will do so by first having opened to God’s love, which is his gift to you.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University