Criteria of True Faith
by Don Giuseppe
Should there still exist any question in his listeners' minds, Jesus removed
any possibility of doubt when he describes the last judgment, in which concrete
acts of compassion are the undeniable sign of "unspoiled religion." Perhaps
nowhere else in the New Testament do we find the importance of the discipline
of action so clearly presented:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then
he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled
before him and he will separate people as the shepherd separates sheep from
goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right hand, "Come, you whom the Father
has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the
foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty
and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; naked and you
gave me clothes, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me."
Then the righteous will say to him in reply, "Lord, when did we see you hungry
and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger
and make you welcome; naked and gave you clothes; sick or in prison and came
to visit you?" And the King will answer, "I tell you solemnly, anytime you
did this to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me." Next he will
say to those on his left hand, "Go away from me, with your curse upon you,
to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry
and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything
to drink; I was a stranger and you never welcomed me, naked and you never
clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me." Then it will be
their turn to ask, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and thirsty, a stranger
or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?" Then he will
answer, "I tell you solemnly, anytime you neglected to do this to one of
the least of these, you neglected to do it to me." And they will go away
to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life." (Mt 25:31-46)
This dramatic scene vividly illustrates the meaning of the discipline of
action. Action with and for those who suffer is the concrete expression of
the compassionate life and the final criterion of being a Christian. Such
acts do not stand beside the moments of prayer and worship but are themselves
such moments. Why? Because Jesus Christ, who did not cling to his divinity,
but became as we are, can be found where there are hungry, thirsty, alienated,
naked, sick, and imprisoned people. Precisely when we live in an ongoing
conversation with Jesus and allow his Spirit to guide our lives, we will
recognize him in the poor, the oppressed, and the suffering. Action and prayer
are two aspects of the same discipline of patience. Both require that we
be present to the suffering world here and now and that we respond to the
specific needs of those who make up our world, a world claimed by Jesus Christ
as his own. So worship becomes ministry and ministry becomes worship, and
all we say or do, ask for or give, becomes a way to the life in which God's
compassion can manifest itself.
Blessed Louis Guanella was strongly criticized because his homes were filled
with poor people assembled from all sorts of misery, oppression and suffering.
His response was that God does not create, redeem and save us by category,
but as individuals. God knows, loves and saves me as individual. I am His
unique creation and He "knows me before He made me in my mother's womb."
I am the reason for His death and I am following Him in His resurrection.
Father Guanella prayed for his poor and asked his poor to pray constantly
for God's providence. God is a compassionate Father who dedicates more care
to the ones who are in most need of His mercy. His prayers and his compassionate
life reached a perfect balance when he let the Spirit show him the way. His
spiritual testament to his followers was and still is, "Pray and suffer for
the Kingdom of God."
Often we think that helping our neighbor means supporting the missions in
foreign lands or contributing to the churches' drives. Our neighbor is much
closer than we think. What about looking into our own children needs, troubles,
difficulties? What about our aging parents and how they are prepared to face
old age? Notice the thousands of elderly in nursing homes whom nobody ever
visits or blesses with a smile. See the person next door who is afraid to
leave the house for fear of being robbed. How about the lady down the block
who can't get her meds from the drug store, or can't go to the doctor. How
many handicapped or elderly do not go to church any longer because they have
no one to take them?
All that is needed is merely time to donate into action. Maybe we could find
that time if we cut in half our television time and gave it to our brothers
and sisters. After all, Jesus gave us time when he decided to become one
of us, becoming a God with us.
The balance of prayer and action is of the utmost importance. The balance
of action and prayer in our life manifests the redeeming presence of God
in our world.
Did you ever hear a comment about workaholics? Of course you have. I am one
Let's talk about it the next chance we have. ·
(Credit: Don Giuseppe. "Criteria of True Faith" Now and at the Hour Aug. 2001: 29.)