“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that 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 something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And 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.’
Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes the final judgment in terms of sheep and goats, referring to the docile nature of sheep vs the more independent temperaments of goats. Those who cared for others in need during their time on earth shall “inherit the kingdom,” while those who ignored others “will go away into eternal punishment.” Jesus further explains that our actions will be judged based on how we treated “the least” of his brothers and sisters.
Particularly during this season of repentance, regularly examining our posture of heart reveals underlying motivations for our actions. Ultimately, the best teachers of love are those we find most difficult to love, “the least” among us, for they provide the most opportunities to practice selflessness.
Am I willing to let myself be led by love? Am I open to the possibility of seeing – and serving – Jesus in “the least” of those I encounter each day?
—Cindy Ristroph is a parish minister at St. Aloysius Parish in Baton Rouge, LA, and occasionally writes for the dotMagis blog.
Gracious God, please increase my awareness of your presence in every person I encounter today. Help me to recognize you even in the midst of people or situations that frustrate or challenge me. I pray for the willingness to follow your spirit of love with a heart open to grace. Amen.
—Cindy RistrophPlease share the Good Word with your friends!