‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’Jn 18:33-37
The Parable of the Sheep and Goats is the source of the corporal works of mercy and underpins Catholic Social Teaching, especially our preferential option for the poor.
Throughout the Gospels Jesus affirms that the Covenant is based upon the two-fold commandment of the love of God and neighbour (Luke 10:27-28). Often he rebukes those who are so consumed with their worship of God that they neglect and have disregard for their neighbour. It is these people, the abandoned and the reviled, that are at the forefront of Jesus’ public ministry. In proclaiming ‘I have come to gather the lost flock of Israel’ (Mt 15:24) Jesus draws attention to the plight of outcasts, the marginalized and the oppressed with the intention that they will be loved and restored to their rightful place in the community.
Jesus’ actions highlight the inherent dignity of all people, made in the image and likeness of God, and he challenges us to see God in others, especially the broken. We cannot be indifferent to their suffering for to do so is to be indifferent to Jesus’ very own suffering.
The Parable of the Sheep and Goats challenges us to love our neighbour unconditionally, even in the brokenness of their humanity. By opening our eyes, ears and hearts to others we are drawn closer to God for we cannot love God without loving others.
Director, Mission and Identity