Friends, in our Gospel today, Jesus tells the crowd that the Son of Man will welcome the righteous into the kingdom, saying, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” Puzzled, the righteous will ask when they did this, and he will reply, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
This is a powerful evocation of Jesus’ teaching about the mutuality of our love for God and neighbor. The absolute love for God is not in competition with a radical commitment to love our fellow human beings, precisely because God is not one being among many, but the very ground of our existence.
Someone who operated very much in the spirit of this teaching was St. Teresa of Kolkata. A writer was once conversing with her, searching out the sources of her spirituality and mission. At the end of their long talk, she asked him to spread his hand out on the table. Touching his fingers one by one as she spoke the words, she said, “You did it to me.”