“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
– Mat 25: 31-40
When we get to heaven, there will be three surprises: First, we will be surprised by the people that we find there, many of whom we surely had not expected to see. The second surprise is that we will be surprised by the people who are absent–the ones we did expect to see but are not there. The third surprise, of course, will be that we are there ourselves.
Another Christian writer expresses more or less the same thought: He said, “many atheists are believers without knowing it. Just as many believers are really atheists without knowing it. You can sincerely believe there is no God but live as though there is one. Just as you can sincerely believe there is a God but live as though there is none.”
The Gospel says that to the surprise of many, the saved and the unsaved, the sheep and the goats will be separated by the love you show to your fellowmen and not by status, social position or even your beliefs. And what a great surprise that will be to so many.
In an Oprah Winfrey show I watched several years ago, she talked about the state of hunger among children around the world. She said that fourteen million children die from hunger and malnutrition every year. But all of those fourteen million deaths are actually very easily prevented. She pointed out that it takes only fifty cents a week, or about twenty six dollars (just about Php1200) to feed a child in Africa for one year. Mindboggling. Php1200 is roughly the amount you spend on a good pair of Levi’s jeans or a pair of not-so-good shoes.
Today, as you read this article, thousands of children around the world will die from measles, tetanus, and diphtheria because they have not been immunized with a vaccine that costs about Php150 only. Thousands of children will die of respiratory infection because they cannot afford Php500 worth of antibiotics. And still more thousands of children will die today from diarrhea and dehydration because their parents don’t know how to treat them with a simple remedy of sugar, salt, and water that costs about P100 to make.
On the other hand, if we look at a typical magazine–say Cosmopolitan or GQ or Candy–we begin to see a contrast of sorts. There is Kim Chiu looking very chic in her designer clothes, a PR girl showing off her Cartier watch and Links of London bracelets, there are endorsements of Chanel, Clarins, and other name brands. There’s a Tiffany and Co vase being sold, and an Olatz silk pajama worth US$550. And of course there are the requisite cars and other blings.
There was a feature on Metrosexuals in the Time Magazine, and GQ and Men’s Health at one time or another. Metrosexuals are that group of young and not-so-young heterosexual men who spend a lot of time and money on their appearance and like to shop. They pay hundreds of dollars for a silk shirt from Versace, $ 64 (or about P3500) to get a manicure, $ 80 (or about P5000) for exfoliation and liposuction.
You take these contrasts and suddenly you appreciate how radical this gospel really is. It is a gospel that says that a culture that spends on Php3500 manicures but cannot come up with Php500 worth of antibiotics is in for a surprise. It says that a culture that is comfortable with buying Php500 cellphone load every week but cannot come up with Php50 worth of sugar and salt is certainly in for a big surprise.
We are faced with the dilemma of contrasts and connection. A friend of mine grew up in Bel-Air in Makati; and he told me that before he studied in Ateneo, he thought that there were no poor people in the Philippines (or at least he took for granted the luxuries he experienced at home). That changed when he realized that his wealth is not the rule but the exception. And he started to live a simpler, less luxurious life.
We can no longer live as though the rest of the world is not affected by how we live. We can no longer live as though our excesses (we call them trash, while some people call them food) will not reach the landfills of Payatas. We can no longer live as if the earth is a bottomless pit of resources. What we do, how we live, the choices we make–all these affect us, and our families, and our people and the future.
Our wealth is not just money; our wealth are the choices and possibilities that we have in abundance and which the least and lost do not. And there are people–our elected officials (God have mercy on their souls!) who use the money in government for the gain of their families alone, some of our Churchmen who think their flock is stupid not to think for themselves, some of the “great” businessmen of our time who pay below minimum wage and pollute the environment, maybe you yourself reading this–who will be there on judgment day. And just like in that story told some 2000 years by the Man whose choices saved us all, will we be in for a big surprise?