For the sake of our salvation, we need to pay serious attention, and act with purpose, to what Jesus teaches here in Matthew’s Gospel: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.
“And he will separate them … as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
“‘When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
“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.’ ”
And for those on his left, Christ will say “ ‘Depart from me … For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. …’ ”
Reaching out to every person we can — especially those who suffer the most — with active compassion generosity, social justice, and peacemaking is such a fundamental requirement to faithful discipleship, that to a great degree our very salvation is at stake.
While God knows you and I can’t help everyone, it is also true that most of us can do much more. After all, look at the saints.
We can place the poor and vulnerable at the center of our prayer life. We can sacrificially give money, time and skills to assist those in desperate need.
We can sign up to receive action alerts from groups that advocate for the unborn, poor, hungry, homeless, refugees, elderly, war-torn and the environment.
Connecting with groups like Bread for the World, Pax Christi, Priests for Life, Catholic Climate Covenant, Network, Churches for Middle East Peace, Catholic Relief Services, Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights, and your state Catholic conference can help you make a difference.
Pope Francis urged the world’s priests to bring the healing power of the Lord’s grace to every person, and to stay close to the marginalized. He famously said priests should be close to people like “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”
But within the larger context of his teaching, Francis is also calling the laity to bring God’s healing love to all — especially those living on the edge of society.
The laity must also be “living with the smell of the sheep.” So that “When the Son of Man comes in his glory,” smelling the scent of sheep on us, he will place us on his right and say: “ ‘Inherit the kingdom prepared for you … For I was hungry and you gave me food.’ ” I was thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick and in prison and you cared for me!
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.