“And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” – Mt. 25:40

For almost my entire life, today’s Gospel message and related messages seemed to stick in my brain and stay there. I wanted to understand what Jesus was telling me through those messages, but I did not feel what Jesus was trying to tell me.

One dream finally helped these words pierce my heart. That day a few years ago, I was particularly stressed and uncharitable. A friend convinced me to break out of my graduate studies for dinner. I wanted to escape the stress I had put on myself in school and listen to where life had led my friend these last few months. I wanted to forget the pressure in class and enjoy the air on our walk. I wanted to be with my friend and not be bothered by anything else or anyone else. I was set on distracting myself. When a distressed man asked for a hand out on the street, I not only refused to give (although I had money to give), but also rejected in a sharp, cruel, and dismissive tone. I didn’t have time for this desperate man’s interruption. My actions made sure to make that message clear to the man, my friend, anyone else observing, and myself.

Later that night, I started to pray with Matthew 25. In my exhaustion, I fell asleep. I woke up suddenly from a gut-wrenching dream. In my dream I was walking down the same street from earlier that night and came across my twin sister dirty, hungry, humiliated, and begging. Immediately, without question, I was moved to embrace her, cover her, and feed her. I woke up with a deep sadness that motivated me to see what I had done earlier in real life. In Greek this feeling is splagchnizomai. Literally, to be moved in the inward parts; figuratively, to feel compassion. My sister’s suffering elicited compassion that began in my gut and moved me to act and care for her – to forget myself for her without judgment of how she got there. Finally, I felt the compassion that Jesus was trying to invite me to have for him and for my brothers or sisters around me.

Brother Jesus, thank you for the ways in which you invite me to respond more like you. Help me to feel the way you feel for our brothers and sisters around me.

Vivian Valencia