I often like to compare myself with others and say, "well, at least I'm not like this person. At least I'm not - murdering, stealing, committing adultery (insert potential mortal sin here)." However, this passage mentions none of those sinful things and yet I still see folks cast into "the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels."
Most of us grow up learning about the sins we shouldn't commit. We are taught to follow the Ten Commandments and avoid doing evil things. Unfortunately, we are not catechized on the very troubling "sins of omission" which are apparently just as deadly to the soul.
In today's Gospel Jesus separates the sheep from the goats, the good from the bad. His criteria is not based on the sinful things that were or were not done. Instead, the deciding factor is whether one did or did not do the good things that should have been done.
This is, unfortunately, a frightening revelation to me. I have always focused on avoiding sin yet here I find that a life of holiness is not based solely on avoiding sin but also on doing good. The "goats" were cast into the fire not because they had done some evil thing directly but because they avoided doing the good they could have done. Their sin is one of omission. With this insight I will be approaching confession much differently next time because I know that if I chose to open my eyes I would see plenty of opportunities for feeding, clothing, etc.
I also have to be careful not to make this into a social justice Gospel. What I chose to do for my brothers and sisters must come from the heart, a heart full of love for God. As Saint Paul says, "If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing."(1 Cor 13:3) I must learn to see Christ in each one of them just as God sees Christ in me. If He can look upon me, wretched as I am, as His own son, surely I can look upon the least of these as my brother or sister.
Lord Jesus, help me to grow in my love for all. Give me the eyes to see as You see. Help me to reach out and love others. Help me to grow and realize that avoiding sin is not living a faith-filled life. Help me to remember the words of St. John, "Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness."(1 John 2:9) and the words of St. James, "If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:15-17)
FROM THE SAINTS - "We will be judged on the degree and quality of our love." - Saint John of the Cross, Spiritual Sentences and Maxims, 57