The Master of Disguise!

Matthew 25:37-40

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

A favorite theme of ancient literature was the “angel unaware” story in which a heavenly visitor pops in disguised as a nobody, in order to see how the locals will act when they are not on their best behavior.  Such stories turn up not only in the Bible (such as in Tobit or Genesis 19) but even in pagan literature.  In fact, a variation of the theme of the Judge in Disguise is even the basis for Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.  And it’s not hard to see why.  There is the reality that some people act differently when they don’t have to mind their Ps and Qs.  Like the man said, when the cat’s away, the mice will play.  The astonishing thing about the words of Jesus above, however, is that, by God’s grace, it is also possible for us to be the same when we are not aware we are watched by the Judge as when we are aware of it. The trick is to remember that, in C.S. Lewis’ words, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.” Jesus disguises himself behind every face.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a Catholic author, blogger, and speaker.

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