Today’s Gospel for this Solemnity of Christ the King is St. Matthew’s account of the last judgment. We are told that when the Son of Man separates the sheep from the goat, he will say to the sheep on his right:
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.
And those on his left are told they are condemned because they did none of these things. Now, both groups are confused by this. Those on the right say – well and good, happy to be saved and all that, but, tell us Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you or thirsty and give you something to drink. And when did we see you a stranger, naked, sick, in prison, because we don’t remember doing any of those things. And Jesus responds: “whatever you did for one of hte least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
And to those on the left who say, wait a minute, we never saw you and refused you love or help, we never would have passed you by if we saw you in need, He says: when you did not do it for the least of these you did not do it to me.
This is pretty staggering when you actually think about it. As Michael Himes observes in talking about the passage,
the criterion of judgment has nothing to do with any explicitly religious action. The criterion is not whether we were baptized, or prayed, or read Scripture, or received the Eucharist, or believed the correct doctrines, or belonged to the church. Not one of these – however important they may be – is raised as the principle of judgment. Only one criterion is given: Did you love your brothers and sisters?
Jesus gives us a clear statement of the criterion for judgment and it is worth spending some time contemplating this passage if it is not one you have taken to prayer lately. Ask yourself: How good a job am I doing in recognizing the Lord in the least of our brothers and sisters?