To read the texts click on the texts: James2:14-17; Mt 25:31-40
Alberto Hurtado was born in Chile in 1901. He was only four years old when his father died. He received a scholarship which enabled him to attend the Jesuit school in Santiago. Later he studied law at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.
Hurtado entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in 1923. After philosophy and theology studies in Spain and Belgium (because the Jesuits were expelled from Spain), he was ordained to the priesthood in 1933.
Hurtado was interested in labour law before entering the Society and long desired to improve the lot of the poor. Upon his return to Chile in 1936, he became a teacher at his alma mater, the Pontifical Catholic University, but also reached out to the poor, especially to the young.
In 1940 he began working for Catholic Action and in the following year became the national director of the youth organization. He also published a book titled, ‘Is Chile a Catholic Country?’ This book challenged some long-held conservative beliefs. It caused considerable controversy and even had some critics labelling him a “communist.”
He established the Trade Union Association of Chile and published three volumes on the labour movement. He also founded a periodical, Mensaje.
In 1952, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and because of this he knew that the end was near. His death was national news.
Alberto Hurtado was beatified in 1994 and canonized in 2005. He remains very popular in Chile to this day.
The Gospel text for the feast may be seen as a summary of Hurtado’s life during which he let his faith be revealed in action. It is a passage about the "kingdom" of God, about all those who are kin to God, and, therefore, who are kin to each other. We are each of us kin to one another. We are all indeed one. The deepest expression of this truth, on this side of life, is a spirituality in which there is no split between our devotion and our deed; no split between mystery and commandment; no split between piety and ethics and no split between being and doing. Like mystery and commandment, interwoven as they are, Jesus is one with the hungry and the thirsty, is one with the stranger and the prisoner, and is one with the naked and the sick. To care for these, is to care for Jesus. To care for them is to reach back into the very essence of life and to touch the God who takes shape in the hungry, in the thirsty, in the naked, in the sick, in the stranger, in the prisoner. "And then the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me.'" The text, thus, is not so much about the condemnation of God, as it is really about the universal vision of the love of God, about the very scope of God's love in Jesus for the whole world. Jesus remains the model of unconditional and eternal love. This was shown in the most powerful of ways by Jesus himself, when in total obedience to the Father, he dared to spread his arms on the Cross in total surrender of self. Therefore, God raised him.
This understanding is important to avoid any kind of misinterpretation that might arise due to a person thinking that it is his/her deeds that earn merit and reward. The righteous who reached out to the least of their brothers and sisters, did so because of the necessity to help, love, serve, visit and feed. They dared to listen to the promptings of the Spirit and responded to these promptings. They did not do what they did for reward. It was not the condition of their good deeds, but its consequences. They did not earn the kingdom but inherited it. Inheritance is determined by the giver not the receiver. The kingdom remains a free gift of God.
Though the unrighteous also address Jesus as Lord – a title used in Matthew’s Gospel only by those who at least have some faith - it is not enough. Their address remains at the theoretical level and is not translated into action. They did not act because they did not believe that God could hide himself in the poorest of the poor. They did not believe that God could be present in the scum of society and in those who live on the margins. They believed that God could be present only in a beautiful sunset or in the stimulating fragrance of a rose or in the silence of one’s heart. They did not realize that our God had been made visible in Jesus, who taught all who were willing to listen, that God was primarily a God of the poor, and that though he was king, he came only to serve.
The sufferings borne by the least of our brothers and sisters continue to summon and challenge us as Church today. They continue to ask us to dare to be credible and authentic witnesses of the Gospel. They invite us not merely to preach acts of loving kindness but to do them. However, what we need is not merely more action, more doing for the sake of doing. No! What we need is a universal unity of love and togetherness. It is a togetherness that transcends all of our frontiers, the frontiers of our mind and of our heart, the frontiers of our creeds and doctrines, the frontiers of our ideas and concepts. This is a radical call to transcend all of those externals that keep us apart, that keep us separated and split.
The challenge for us today is to forget our own needs for love and happiness and to reach out in love to make someone else happy who may be in greater need. For whatever we do to the least of these needy children of God, these brothers and sisters of Jesus, we do to Jesus Himself. Hurtado did this in an exemplary manner and invites us to the same.