You may have heard the expression “a Matthew 25 Christian,” referring to someone who emphasizes the Last Judgment in her approach to the faith. This approach takes the end point, final judgment, as the starting point and principal focus to understand what it means to be Christian. Not a bad place to start since this parable is the only Gospel text about the Last Judgment, and clearly shows a focus not on pious practices but on concern and action on behalf of those who suffer.
But it is interesting to consider Matthew’s chapter 25 as a whole, all three parables together in sequence, one building on the other:
In one chapter, a program: a process for Christian Life, and a practical way to respond lovingly to the God who first loved us. It calls us to be awake and vigilant, using our talents, especially on behalf of the poor and suffering!
For Vincentians the poor are our legacy. Others may choose different priorities, ours is always the poor, among whom Vincent says “true religion is found.” Our ongoing challenge is to find 21st century solutions to poverty, putting into effective action today the intuitions of Vincent and others from centuries past.
And how better to serve the poor than by:
- assisting them with charity when necessary, a charity that respects and empowers others, and
- helping those burdened by poverty to find their voice and channel their own ability to challenge and change the systems and structures that keep them in poverty.
Systemic Change work is another expression of Vincentian Spirituality and the New Evangelization.
Jim Claffey retired from the St. Vincent de Paul Society on Long Island, where he served as Director of Formation and Programs. Jim currently serves as a member of the Vincentian Family’s International Commission to Promote Systemic Change.