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 brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:37-40)
The above Scripture passage speaks eloquently about our call to see to the physical needs of our brothers and sisters. But read in another way we can apply this reading to the spiritual needs of the members of the family of God.
Saint Mother Theresa often spoke of the spiritual poverty that afflicts First World nations. The suffering that began as a result of sin and that is now intensifying, will tempt many, many souls to despair. The world will be hungry, even starving, for hope. We know and believe in the promise of the Lord, that he will never forsake us, that he will be with us to the end of the age. We who have been given the grace of faith must not close the door on those who come begging for hope, but must freely give what we have been freely given, by sharing our hope with those who are longing for it.
Jesus cried from the cross, “I thirst!” Our Lord’s unquenchable thirst for souls is magnified in this age by the rampant lack of faith that allows souls to reject the very One who came to save them. When Christ comes again, will he find faith on earth? We can help quench our Lord’s thirst by being signs of faith to those around us, by sharing faith when we are led to, but above all by fasting and praying for conversions as our Mother has enjoined us to so fervently and so frequently. She would not ask us to do this if it did no good. Then let us have complete confidence in her Motherly care and pray unceasingly for souls.
There are strangers among us, people who have never been told that they are children of a loving Father. How tragic! Today it is more important than ever that we scan the horizon for those who are “hanging around the fringes” waiting to be invited in. Our hope must be reflected in all we do so that we may attract those who may be strangers, that they might come home to the Church where they belong. Once there, we can cover their nakedness with the white garment of baptism, so that they too will be welcomed at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
It could be that the Lord is calling us to reach out to those who are spiritually sick or in spiritual prisons, to visit them with the healing balm of salvation and the light of truth that leads to freedom. We can reach out to such people in a literal sense, or if those attempts are rejected we can reach out with our prayers. In any case we should reach out with our prayers at all times for all those in need. St. Ambrose describes this communal aspect of prayer so beautifully:
“Above all, you must pray for the whole people: that is, for the whole body, for every part of your mother the Church, whose distinguishing feature is mutual love. If you ask for something for yourself then you will be praying for yourself only—and you must remember that more grace comes to one who prays for others than to any ordinary sinner. If each person prays for all people, then all people are effectively praying for each.
“In conclusion, if you ask for something for yourself alone, you will be the only one asking for it; but if you ask for benefits for all, all in their turn will be asking for them for you. For you are in fact one of the ‘all.’ Thus it is a great reward, as each person’s prayers acquire the weight of the prayers of everyone. There is nothing presumptuous about thinking like this: on the contrary, it is a sign of greater humility and more abundant fruitfulness.” –St. Ambrose
There is much to ponder in this passage. It affirms that we are not called to a life of penance for our own sakes, although it will certainly do our souls tremendous good. The Lord has called penitents in this particular hour because the world desperately needs souls who will follow Jesus on the Way of the Cross, souls who will work tirelessly for the sake of the kingdom, that all may have life and have it abundantly.
May his kingdom come and his will be done.