"‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ ”
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus describes a real, future event: the Last Judgment that will take place at the end of time. To describe this future event, He uses the metaphor of sheep and goats. And then Jesus describes the difference between these sheep and goats. This difference is one of the most important teachings of the Gospel.
Historically, there have been many disputes between Protestants and Catholics about the role of faith, and the role of good works, in the life of the Christian. By which do we enter heaven? The Catholic Church, from the first century, to the sixteenth century, to today, has taught that—if you make it to Heaven—it will be because you bore both faith and good works. Each is indispensable, not only for personal salvation. Each of them is indispensable for the perduring of the other. Faith does not perdure unless it is manifested through good works. And works without faith are not good unto eternal salvation.
Jesus’ description today of the Last Judgment—which He spoke two days before the Passover during Holy Week (see Matthew 25-26)—makes it seemingly impossible to deny the role of good works in the Christian’s entrance into Heaven. Nonetheless, beyond any disputes that might still go on today, we need before disputing the meaning of the Christian Faith simply to live the Christian Faith. Jesus calls us to live the Christian Faith by seeking Him in the disguise of the poor, in all the forms that poverty takes.