For many months we’ve been paying close attention to the voice of the Chief Medical Officer. To preserve the health of our bodies, she provides us with protocols to follow. In the Gospel text we heard on Sunday for the Solemnity of Christ the King (Matthew 25: 31-46), Jesus lays out for us a protocol of his own aimed at the health of soul we call salvation. The practices we have been given to follow by the CMO can open the door to understanding those received from our Sovereign Lord.
The Chief Medical Officer is always telling us to wear a mask in order to protect other people. In order to prompt us to serve other people, especially the needy and marginalized, Jesus removes a mask. A mask obscures identity. It covers the face, partially or fully, and thus can render identification difficult. In the awesome scene of the Last Judgement, Jesus unmasks his own face and reveals his identity, in a way that shocks his hearers: “just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.” The protocol of salvation is to look beyond the mask of human misery to see the face of Christ and then serve him in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the prisoner.
A very challenging issue for our medical experts and health officials is to determine how best to engage our freedom. Are limitations to be imposed, as in a lockdown, or do we appeal to the public to exercise freedom wisely and prudently? The debate around this question is growing in intensity of late. When Jesus lays out the salvation protocol, there is no question of imposition. He honours absolutely the freedom of conscience and will with which he has endowed us. Since Jesus takes our freedom very seriously and respects it absolutely, we are moved to ask how seriously we take it? With this question, we touch the great mystery of our human dignity as people created in the image and likeness of God, and awaken to the seriousness of the life of each and every human being. Our salvation hinges in no small measure upon the way we exercise our God-given freedom. We use our freedom well when we embrace and follow the salvation protocols of mercy; we abuse it when instead we adopt the condemnatory practices of indifference.
Careful attentiveness to what is demanded of us by the salvation protocols cannot help but move us to a serious self-examination. Awareness of any failure to exercise mercy toward those with whom Jesus identifies must lead us to that repentance by which selfishness is no longer sovereign in our lives and Christ our King is firmly enthroned in our hearts. Our Lord’s greatest desire is that interior renewal within each of us we call conversion, by which our eyes are opened to see Jesus in the needy, and our freedom liberated to serve them through concrete acts of mercy. As we follow daily the medical guidelines aimed at the present health of our bodies, may God’s healing grace enable us to embrace with even greater fervor the mercy protocols that lead to the eternal salvation of our souls.