Caravaggio. The Seven Works of Mercy. 1607. Oil on canvas. 150 in × 100 in. Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples.
Jesus minces no words in this section from the Gospel of Matthew. It is clear that when we feed the hungry, relieve the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the prisoner that we are participating in the Kingdom of God. The least among us is made in the same image of the Creator as everyone else, and when we serve them, we serve Christ directly.
To serve others in the ways that Christ compels us, particularly those in dire need, requires us to go out of our comfort zone. We have to interact with people who have had significantly different life experiences. Many of us have lived with the privilege that meant never going to bed hungry, never living outside in the summer with nothing to drink, never being alone with no home, never lacking a coat in the winter, never dealing with physical or mental illness, never knowing anyone in prison. It can be hard to find common ground with people who have lived such different lives from our own. But not only do we have to speak to our neighbors who are struggling in ways that we cannot comprehend; we must love them. We cannot serve others with the intent of securing our own salvation, or to be boastful of good deeds. We must do it with the intention of pure love and care for our neighbors and their needs. For when we love our neighbor, we also love God.
Madison Canales is the Office Manager at Trinity Cathedral. She is a parishioner at St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, and lives in East Liberty with her cat, Kuiper.