The Source of the Mysticism of the Vincentian Charism
Whatever you did for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:41)
by: Jesús Miguel Hurtado Salzar, CM
[This presentation was first published in El Carisma Vicenciano, Memoria y Profecía, XXVI Semana de Estudios Vicencianos, Editorial CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, 2001, p. 91-127].
- 1 Introduction
- 2 A time to tell the story
- 3 A time to understand
- 3.1 Two interpretations
- 3.2 A re-reading
- 3.3 Theological Interpretation
- 4 A time to allow ourselves to be guided
- 4.1 Let us allow ourselves to be guided by the God who sees and listens to the cries of all the poor
- 4.2 Let us allow our eyes to be touched
- 4.3 Let us allow our ears to be touched
- 4.4 Let us allow ourselves to be guided by this God-Father
- 4.5 Let us allow ourselves to be led along the path of service on behalf of the poor
- 4.6 Let us allow ourselves to be guided by little things
- 4.7 Let us allow ourselves to recognize Christ in the poor
- 4.8 Let us develop an attitude of gratitude
- 5 A time to communicate
- 6 A time to conclude
- 7 Footnotes
From the time of the Patristic era (Saint Augustine and Saint John Chrysostom)  to the present time, but especially during the modern era, various charitable organizations have based their action and their mysticism on the Lord’s simple proclamation: whatever you did for me of these least brother or sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40). Those groups that are identified with the Vincentian charism stand out in this regard.
Those words of the Lord have become a fountain for us and we are able to have on-going recourse to this fountain which enables us to recreate ourselves as the years pass. This seemingly strange source becomes part of us and shifts and accompanies us during the critical moments of change that each historical era invites us to confront as we listen to the various calls of the Lord. Thus we are referring to an on-going source of inspiration and wisdom as well as a source for our experience of God.
It is not easy to place ourselves in that place because there is a fear of collaborating with the conceit of those authors who threaten to destroy our ability to savor and admire those things that are beyond us and that fill us with awe. Perhaps even Jesus himself laughs at us for the obsession that we have in wanting to hear and participate in more talks and more presentations. We are not going to save ourselves by holding on to these various presentations and talks as if they were our life preservers.
But the truth is that on the map of our life there are meeting places and places of interest that remind us of the place where we were born, that open us to new horizons and to the future revelations of God and that enable us to live this present moment with conviction and confidence and honesty. Those are the places of interest that give a new perspective to the mediocrity of our life, the loss of meaning, the lack of vocations and the aging of our communities.
We attempt to imitate Vincent de Paul and to allow ourselves to be guided by this text. His biographer tells us: Yet, seeking to strengthen himself more surely against the attacks of the devil, he thought of taking a firm and unbreakable resolve to honor Jesus Christ and to imitate him more perfectly than ever before by committing his entire life to the service of the poor ]2] .
In this presentation we are going to approach this place of interest which, in the words of Isaiah is like the kindling of fire (Isaiah 10:16). We shall attempt to engage in a reflective reading … indeed, this is a time to tell the story and to know the content of the text. Thus we will draw closer to the text, taking time to understand it. We will then allow ourselves some time to be guided and led by this text and some more time to listen from a Vincentian perspective to the prophetic word that the text contains. Lastly, we shall take some time to conclude, that is, we will attempt to confront the future with confidence.
A time to tell the story
To approach this text of Matthew 25:31-46 is like approaching the burning bush. We need to take off our shoes and to open our minds and hearts and we also need to change our way of thinking in order to allow ourselves to be awed by the depths of its meaning.
Here is the text:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne  and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
 Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  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.”  Then the righteous will answer him and say, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?”  And the king will say to them in reply, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
 Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,  a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.”  Then they will answer and say, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?”  He will answer them, “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”
 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
In this presentation I presume that people are aware of and familiar with the exegetical analysis of this text and therefore I will focus my attention on the events of such an analysis and do so from a biblical-theological perspective .
The text constitutes a literary unit that forms part of the fifth discourse of the gospel of Matthew … the discourse known as the eschatological discourse. This discourse is addressed to the disciples (Matthew 24:3) and consists of three parts. The first part is descriptive: it proclaims a series of calamities that will signal the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple as well as the end of time and the coming of the Son of Man who will proclaim a new world (24:1-36). The second part of this discourse is parenthetical and is intended to teach us and to encourage us to be vigilant (an essential attitude that ought to guide the behavior of Christians until the time of the Lord’s return). This part is composed of three parables, namely, the parable of the faithful servant, the parable of the ten virgins and the parable of the talents or the three administrators (24:37-25:30). The third part of this discourse is composed of the scene of the final judgment (25:31-46).
This third part constitutes a literary unit in itself. It could be said that this whole scene of the Son of Man is followed by an antithetical diptych that represents the final destiny of those who are judged. The first panel refers to those who are saved and the second panel represents those who are condemned … all of this is accomplished by the immediate application of the final sentence.
Formal structure of the text
We can view the structure of the text from different perspectives: the pace of the action, the situation of the various persons, the division of those being judged.
From the perspective of the action we can understand the text as a prophetic narrative that is the result of the gesture of the Son of Man (v.25, 31c-33), and also the result of the words of the Son of Man (v.25, 34-45). This narrative is framed by an introduction (v.25, 31ab) and a conclusion (v.25, 46).
Looking at the different people involved, we have the Son of Man who is the active subject because he is revealed in his glorious coming as one who judges with gestures (he sits down, he assembles together other people, he separates people) and who judges with words (he sentences these individuals and clarifies the situation). The Son of Man is also a passive subject (he is assisted by the righteous or is neglected by those on his left). At the same time we have the people who stand before the Son of Man and they are passive subjects because they are assembled together, separated, and judged; they are also active subjects because they either helped or failed to help the Son of Man.
The separation of those who are judged provides us with another insight into the structure of the text: people are separated as a result of the gesture of the Son of Man (v. 25, 31c-33), they are separated in accord with the word of the Son of Man who defines and establishes said separation (v.25, 34-45). The introduction prepares us for the judgment (v.25, 31ab) and the conclusion ratifies the judgment that has taken place (v.25, 46).
Bringing together all these different elements we can now see more clearly the following structure of the text:
Introduction: the coming of the Son of Man (v.25, 31ab). Here the elements are the Son of Man, his coming, his glory and his angels.
The judgment as the activity of the Son of Man (v.25, 31c-33) which is composed of three movements: (1) the exaltation of the Son of Man who is seated on the throne of glory, (2) the presentation of the people who are assembled before the Son of Man, (3) the separation of the people which is carried out by the Son of Man acting as a shepherd.
The judgment as the word of the Son of Man (v.25, 34-45): here we are dealing with the fact that that which is done through gesture is illuminated and explained through word which, more than a clarifying word is a creative word that reveals in a powerful way the meaning of history, the meaning of the activity of human people and the relationship between nations. The word is structured in the following way, namely, as a twofold and antithetical judicial sentence: favorable sentence of salvation (v.34), explanation of the sentence (v.35-36), surprise of the righteous (v.37-39), clarification (v.40); sentence of condemnation (v.41), explanation of the sentence (v.42-43), surprise of the unjust (v.44), clarification (v.45).
Conclusion: the sentence takes immediate effect (v.46)
The scene that we have before us takes on the form of a didactic text. Many consider this text as a parable that is a continuation of the three previous parables. But this does not appear to be the situation. The scene is like a fresco, a painting, a panel that presents us with an apocalyptical vision. This is how this text is normally viewed.
We are dealing with the final scene of a process in which a conclusive sentence is handed down. This text contains various formal components: comparison, allegory, judicial norms, apocalyptic revelation. All of these components, however, are at the service of the apocalyptic vision that must be understood from the perspective of its relationship to the whole gospel of Matthew.
A time to understand
We are going to approach the text in order to view it more closely, looking at the various people, observing their gestures, listening to their words and trying to understand all of this. In reality, what is the meaning of this narrative? We know that many people have approached this text and according to their point of view have said different things. The theology of liberation views this text as a justification for the preferential option for the poor. Others view this as a text that enables us to develop a theology of non-Christian religions or a theology of atheism in which non-Christians and non-believers are offered salvation. In reality these are approaches that do not seem to be in accord with the text, approaches that flow from later problematic situations and christological, ecclesiological and anthropological ambiguities.
There are two interpretations that can summarize the different comprehensive understandings of our text. In the first place we have the “classical” interpretation  which views Matthew 25:31-46 as the eschatological proclamation of the universality of the commandment of love: the Son of Man, when he comes, will judge the whole world, all people, without distinction and he will also apply as the criteria for salvation the help that one has extended to those who are poor and unfortunate. The accomplishment of such gestures will decide the ultimate destiny of people, whether they are believers or not. The key here is the surprise of both groups of people: when did we see you hungry? (Matthew 25:37, 44). In other words, salvation does not depend on one’s membership in the Church, but on the actions that one does on behalf of the neighbor who is in need.
On the other hand, the “modern” interpretation  believes that “the least of these brothers and sisters” are the disciples of Jesus or the missionaries who find themselves in a difficult situation. It is the pagan world and not all of humankind that Jesus judges . In this interpretation the emphasis has shifted: this passage is addressed to the disciples and therefore is not intended to offer an ethic with regard to the love of neighbor. Rather this passage is intended to encourage and console Christians as they confront the hostilities of the pagan world. Without realizing it, the ultimate destiny of non-Christians is linked to their acceptance or rejection of those persons who are sent forth by the church.
As can be seen, these are two very different positions that reflect certain lacuna when we read and attempt to understand this text. The modern interpretation, even though it appears to be attractive, does not hold up under serious examination. This position is based on the understanding of the phrase, panta ta ethanê (all the nations) and tiutônm tôn adelphôn mou tôn elachiston (the least of these brothers of mine). The modern interpretation views these phrases as references to the pagans and to the disciples of Jesus respectively. But the expression panta ta ethane is not the same as ta ethnê. Panta ta ethane means “all the nations” and not just “the nations” as opposed to Israel. With regard to the phrase “the last of these brothers of mine” it does not necessarily follow that these words refer to the disciples. Even though it is true that this expression appears in Matthew 10:40, 42, nevertheless this is not a phrase that is proper to Matthew and therefore we cannot give the same meaning to the phrase when it appears in different passages. If this were the case it would then appear that Matthew makes Jesus solely concerned about the disciples and thus the Church becomes a sect and the salvation of the world depends on the position that is taken with regard to the Church and its ministers.
With regard to the classical interpretation it seems that the Son of Man will come to judge all people, without distinction, whether they are believers or not, and this judgment will be based on what they have done or not done for those in need. The salvation of the individual is accomplished without any reference to Christ and thus there is no need to recognize Christ or profess faith in Christ nor is there any need for an explicit reference to the Church … there does not appear to be any need to belong to the Church in order to be saved. This interpretation presents us with a twofold problem.
How can we accept the fact that the result of God’s salvific work in Christ with regard to humanity should be compromised in this manner? According to this interpretation and understanding, Jesus would have failed since he came to gather together all people and the final result is an everlasting separation between those who are saved and condemned.
There is a further difficulty: is divine justice beyond mercy? Also looking at the severe ending of the scene, should we be fearful or hopeful?
We are going to re-read the text and as we do so we will be mindful of the context of Matthew’s gospel since that is the best way to understand what the evangelist wants to tell us.
The Son of Man
The central person is the Son of Man  who at times is king and at other times is shepherd. There is no doubt that in the conception of the Old Testament Jesus replaces God as king and shepherd. The Son of Man is the object of the prophetic promise of the One who will come, the One who comes in the person of Jesus to fulfill the hopes of humankind and the One who will come in the apocalyptic future.
In the context of Matthew’s gospel, the newness of this teaching could be summed up in the following manner: Jesus, who will endure the passion and death and resurrection, proclaims in a veiled manner his triumph and future victory.
The theme of the judgment
Jesus is coming but, why? Even though the text is apocalyptical, it follows the line of thought that is found in the wisdom literature … we are presented with two paths, a life that is blessed or a life that is cursed (Deuteronomy 30), a life of righteousness or wickedness (Psalm 1).
The word, krisis (judgment) does not appear in the text, but the context of the scene is judicial: to be seated, to assemble people together, to separate people. The Son of Man comes in order to engage in a process of discernment or judgment, but we need to understand what is meant by this. The word krisis translates the Hebrew word mišphat which is the justice of God , the salvation and the liberation that God gives to humankind. This word is rooted in religious experience rather than in ethical neutrality. Jesus is entrusted with accomplishing mišphat and he does this by acting on behalf of the poor.
The mišphat discovers the saving presence of God and therefore judgment must be viewed from the perspective of God’s love and from the perspective of the relationship established by the covenant. Thus, the Son of Man comes in order to bring about judgment and salvation … and this is accomplished with actions and words. Through the union of both of these elements, the union of action and word, the salvation of God is accomplished .
Criteria for salvation
The criteria that Jesus offers with regard to salvation are related to specific actions of love on behalf of the neighbor who is in need. The encounter with God who saves becomes a reality through the works of mercy .
If we focus on “the good works” of those persons who are referred to in the text, the first thing that we observe is that those actions are not complicated but are actions that each one of us can do. Another important element is that those actions are not related to the obligations of the Ten Commandments. Furthermore, they are also not related to the list of duties that we find in Colossians 3:18-4:1; Ephesians 5:21-6:9; 1 Peter 2:13-3:7, 5:1-5. There is no reciprocity implied here. We also point out that six things and not seven are listed here and this seems to indicate that we have an incomplete list. Finally, people are not judged in accord with some evil that they have done but are judged in accord with the good that they did not do.
The Ten Commandments are not denied as in the case of rich young man but Jesus situates us in another place. These works are given a wonderful name: service or diakonia which in Matthew are the same as works of mercy or hesed which in the Old Testament is the saving and gratuitous help that God offers to humankind.
Motives for the sentence
Jesus, in his saving judgment, provides us with insight that enables us to know when we can encounter the God who saves, that enables us to embark upon the true path that gives meaning to our life and that enables us to live with the very hope of God. But, why, then, are these the criteria for discernment, the criteria that lead to salvation or condemnation? Jesus, in his response, offers us his motives.
God is the God of the poor
God, as revealed throughout the Old Testament , is one who is in solidarity with the poor. He takes on the sufferings of the poor as his own. In this context the identification of the judge with those in need is in line with the theology of the Old Testament: from the perspective of the covenant God considers his people as his personal property or his segullah (Deuteronomy 7:6, 14:2, 26:18; Exodus 19:5). But in the text that we are concerned about, the newness is found in the fact that Jesus, as the Son of Man, makes present this relationship between God and his people who suffer. This is what also constitutes the Christian experience.
Jesus identifies himself with the poor
Jesus identifies himself with the poor. This is one of the motives behind the sentence that is handed down. This mystery is actualized today in those places where people accept and provide for those persons who are in need.
In order to interpret correctly this identification of Jesus with the poor and with those in need, we have to be mindful of the fact that in Matthew’s gospel Jesus identifies himself with various groups. Jesus identifies himself with those who were sent forth to preach. In the missionary discourse Jesus tells the disciples: whoever receives you, receives me (10:40). He also identifies himself with the children when he states: Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me (18:5) .
This situation with regard to various forms of identification does not allow us to set apart the category of those who are “the least among the brothers and sisters” as the only people who are privileged as a result of such an identification. We are not denying this identification but it is not good to hypothesize about this or to absolutize such an identification. In fact if we are aware of all that we have just stated then we can better understand Jesus’ identification with the poor.
More specifically, in the passage that we are examining, who are these “least among the brother and sisters” with whom Jesus identifies himself? Where are they situated in the scene? In reality they do not appear in the picture. They are, if you will, on the sidelines … they do not have their own proper existence. If Jesus has come into the world in order to identify himself with them, then why are they not among the chosen ones, that is, among those who are saved? The text says nothing about this group, neither explicitly nor implicitly. I find it curious that nothing is said here about these men/women.
In light of this fact, authors have taken various positions. We have, on the one extreme, those who give no consideration to those “least among the brothers and sisters” and on the other extreme, those who identify these individuals with some specific group, for example, the disciples. Many are content to follow the narrative of the text as if the relationship that Jesus establishes with the indigent is only temporary or momentary. In other words, this identification continues for as long as people are in need, but once that need is satisfied, the identification ceases. Thus the identification is not with a specific group that has perduring characteristics and certainly such a group could never be a privileged group. Jesus identifies with the “least among the brother and sisters” in a passive way, independent of his activity. We also see that Jesus is not directly concerned about the beneficiaries of these acts of charity or about those who are ignored and neglected. The “least among the brothers and sisters” with whom Jesus identifies can be found on the left or on the right because the situation in which they find themselves will depend on the way in which they reached out to their neighbor in need . In reality the “least among the brothers and sisters” are those whom we are able to identify as we are guided by the questions that the scholar of the law asked Jesus: and who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29) … the response that is given in the parable of the Good Samaritan is meant to lead people to a process of discernment that is guided by mercy .
The experience of the just and the unjust
Another element that stimulates the imagination is the twofold surprise with regard to the sentence, the surprise of the just and the unjust. We are told that neither group recognized Jesus in the poor whom they served or whom they neglected. How is this possible?
Before responding to this question we must ask if such a question was pertinent for the Twelve. From 24:3 we know that this discourse is addressed to the disciples. This information is essential. Indeed, the “modern” interpretation highlights this reality. The disciples never appear in the judgment scene because they are the ones who are listening to Jesus as he speaks to them about these two groups. Therefore they are neither explicitly nor implicitly on either the right or the left. The disciples’ position, as listeners and receivers of the message, places them outside the sense (whether this is the group of the Twelve before the resurrection experience of whether this is the disciples and Christians in general after the resurrection experience.
On the other hand, if we remember the series of messages that the Twelve had previously received from Christ, then once again we affirm that there is nothing that could lead us to identify “the least of these brothers and sisters” with one group or the other (that is, with the group on the left or with the group on the right).
The Twelve know that they will sit in judgment over the twelve tribes of Israel (19:27-29). The request of the mother of the sons of Zabadee with regard to her sons affirms that reality (20:20-22). They also know that the Son of Man will come, that the conduct of each person will be judged (16:27) and that this coming is immediate: Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes (10:23). They also know many other things, especially those things that were told to them as they were sent forth to preach, things which are contained in chapter ten.
The Twelve also know, as we have indicated above, that Jesus identified himself with those who were sent forth (cf., 10:40-42), that those who are not for Jesus are opposed to him (cf., 10:32-33) and that each person will be judged by his or her own words: I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless work they speak. By your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned (12:36-37). If they know all of this then what new reality is being taught to them in this scene? 
The reality of not recognizing Jesus makes no sense when referring to the Twelve. They have already recognized Jesus and proclaimed him (14:33 and 16:16). The text does not explain for whom this teaching is intended. Jesus does explain that all nations and all people will have to appear before him at the decisive moment. All the nations will be assembled before him; in v.32 the phrase, all the nations will be assembled before him, has a universal character and many authors point this out . It is important to highlight the future triumph of Jesus.
In order to understand the meaning of the text it is necessary to suppose a second time period, a time that begins with the resurrection event and extends until the coming of Christ. The final victory of Christ and the universal judgment will have very clear consequences: all people will be equal as they appear before Christ.
Therefore the Twelve, the disciples and everyone else must not allow themselves to be deceived by the proclamation of the false prophets or some other false messiah and they should not become involved in speculations about the end times (24:23-26). Since the return of the Messiah will be unexpected, therefore, in order to avoid the above mentioned deceptions, people have to take advantage of this time of waiting by doing good to others.
This teaching does not annul what preceded all of this but rather sums up the effects of all of that teaching. We should think of the call to produce fruit (7:17-20). The teaching about the destruction of Jerusalem or the Temple proclaims the end of time and the coming of the Son of Man. But neither the catastrophes nor speculation with regard to the end of time should distract people from the ethical task … indeed, those realities should impel people to engage in such ethical behavior
The sentence takes effect
This is perhaps the most surprising aspect of the text. It seems that everything is directed toward a strict determinism that inevitably leads to the separation of people. In reality we are dealing with an apocalyptical text  that utilizes a very rigid framework which is intended to encourage the listeners to do good. The mercy of God is not being denied here but the real possibility of the condemnation of those who do not help their brothers and sisters in need is being affirmed. The text is a call to responsibility. In summary, our text informs us about the existence of eternal life and tells us that there will be a judgment at the end of time, that such a judgment will take place in the presence of Jesus Christ which therefore supposes that the final victory of Christ will definitely occur … thus people must persevere in watchful expectation for this event and while people remain vigilant their behavior will determine their final destiny. What believers do or fail to do in the name of Christ is not indifferent. It is not enough to be a believer and say, Lord, Lord (7:21), rather people must prove their love for God or for Christ by loving their neighbor as they love themselves (22:39). This is how the justice that Jesus demands in the Sermon on the Mount is made real (5:20). These are the basic motives that provide a foundation for Christian behavior … but even so, salvation is not guaranteed. Here there is no room for pharisaism. We should remember that Jesus’ response to the disciples’ question, Who then can be saved? … namely, for human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible (19:25-26). The practice of charity does not dispense people from professing their faith in Jesus Christ … in fact, it supposes such faith.
Having engaged in this re-reading we can now attempt to understand what the texts tells us about Christ, God, the human person and the Church.
Christ is the Son of Man who accepts the role of judge and takes on the functions that Yahweh had in the Old Testament.
The newness of the message of our text is found in the Christological dimension of the judgment. Men and women will appear before Christ at the time of the final judgment. In Christ we discover the God who becomes poor among the poor, the God who identifies himself with the poor, the God who teaches people the path that leads to salvation, the God who assures all people that this path will indeed lead to their ultimate objective. The final victory of Christ is presented as an act of reconciliation between the poor and those who help those who are poor.
Therefore we cannot doubt the salvific redemptive value of Christ’s death and resurrection nor the very real invitation that is extended to everyone. There is also no doubt that Christ offers us a message of hope. If people listen to this message then God will pour forth his goodness and mercy upon those individuals.
God does not directly appear in this narrative, but God’s silence is not absolute; he seems to appear behind the scene of various divine actions: all the nations will be assembled before him (v.32), prepared for you (v.34), prepared for the devil and his angels (v.41). God also appears as the Father of the Son of Man who blesses the just ones. God is the foundation of a human life that is based on equality: all people are brothers and sisters to one another, equal in dignity despite all their differences. It is because of God that the disciples can pray like Jesus and say: Our Father who are in heaven … (6:9-13).
God becomes present and makes the Kingdom available to the just ones; God becomes present at the center of history and places people in the midst of a situation in which (by appealing to their freedom and opening themselves to the fullness of the Son of Man) there is the risk that they will abuse and misuse their life. Nevertheless, God offers himself as a blessing and a goal.
God is hidden and veiled but the person of Jesus is unveiled. God becomes translucent in human history in those places where the poor are in need and in those places where people help others who are in need.
Here then we encounter the God who overcomes injustice but at the same time we encounter the God who takes on the poverty and the suffering of humankind. In doing so the path of service is opened to us.
The human person
In this text the human person appears in a universal and a personal dimension that leads men and women to come face to face with the truth and with freedom and with their final destiny when they will take their place alongside those who have lived their life well or alongside those who have abused and misused their life.
In this universal and personal dimension there is a mysterious element: the presence of the Son of Man in the least of the brothers and sisters. This presence of Christ in the poor turns our values upside down. The little ones, those who are never taken into consideration, become the revelation of grace and the future of history. Authentic persons are not those who attain their fulfillment by being able to stand out among others, rather authenticity is achieved by accepting our own “smallness” and by becoming a servant to those in need.
The world has meaning as a result of Jesus Christ who sustains “the little ones” and who raises up a world that is configured by mercy.
In principle everyone is graced: the poor in whom Christ becomes present and those individuals who open themselves to others become part of this environment of grace and part of this encounter which the Father, in Christ, continually offers. This path becomes a life of fulfillment. Those who are closed in upon themselves and their blindness are unable to journey along the path of grace and this, in turn, leads to an abusive and meaningless life.
The Church does not appear in this text that we have been reflecting on. We have already stated that Christ’s teaching is addressed to the Twelve. The truth of the Church is the truth of Christ. The Church is called to proclaim publicly the Kingdom, called to love those persons who are in need and called to stir up a movement of hope and assistance that is extended to those who are poor. There we have the Church’s reason for being: to become a protagonist on behalf of the Kingdom, to become poor in order to experience Christ’s grace and salvation, to become the servant of the poor, to become the transparent and translucent presence of God’s goodness, and to open itself to humankind as an offering of salvation, as the teacher of the Lord’s wisdom and as one who teaches the path to a life of fulfillment.
A time to allow ourselves to be guided
Vincent de Paul allowed himself to be guided by this text and he became one of the people who has best interpreted, understood and lived these words. We, who walk along the same path, need to draw near to this burning fire and we must allow ourselves to be led by the light that is contained therein and thus we become able to drink from the fountain that nourishes our charism.
Let us allow ourselves to be guided by the God who sees and listens to the cries of all the poor
Let us allow ourselves to be guided by the God who listens to all those people who cry out on the outskirts and in the wastelands of our world. Let us allow ourselves to really look in order to learn how to see and to acquire the sensitivity that enables us to listen to and to respond to those who are poor. Let us acquire that sensitivity that opens our hearts in such a way that we no longer see as normal those things are clearly not normal; let us acquire that sensitivity that enables us to see that things can be different. Finally, let us acquire that sensitivity that enables us to understand that the relationships that exist in our world and that create poverty and exclusion … these relationships can be changed.
Let us allow our eyes to be touched
Let us allow our eyes to be touched by hands that heal blindness, by hands that enlighten and that teach us to us to see and to know; let us allow our eyes to be touched by hands that teach us to know the situation of the poor and that in turn leads to a change in our attitude and to a new way of acting. Today we need to know and to understand the new situations of poverty in order to provide the new responses that are demanded. In order to really know this situation we need:
A] to overcome our prejudices: in order to know and discover the poor we need to free ourselves from the many personal and social prejudices that prevent us from seeing and knowing. There is no worse blindness that that of those persons who do not see. Today there are no poor persons! People are poor because they want to be poor! There is no one among us who is hungry! Even though there are difficulties, today people live better than ever before! These are expressions of many of those prejudices which are at one and the same time a sign of the fact that we have not yet discovered the poor. Expressions such as those who come here never want to leave! … those are words that we hear when people speak about those men and women who are received at our center for homeless people … and such words are also an expression of a similar prejudice. These prejudices prevent us from hearing. Indeed, we have to discover the poor in order to hear the poor … without this we will never be concerned about the poor.
We have to ask ourselves: what prevents us from becoming aware of the existence of the poor? It is bad enough that we do not see the poor, but it is even worse that we utilize various defense mechanisms in order to not look at them, and thus, not know them … in order to keep them at a distance.
Let us look at some of these mechanisms that prevent us from discovering the poor: (1) we confuse poverty with misery and do not realize that it is not necessary for people to be living in misery in order to be poor; (2) we understand misery as a lock of the financial means for sustenance when in reality poverty is also related to the inability of poor people to exercise their basic social rights and also related to their inability to participate in society and their inability to obtain knowledge, (3) we make poverty coincide with marginalization, (4) we blame the poor or the natural causes of poverty when in reality the cause of poverty is social inequality.
If we want to know the reality of poverty then we will have to learn how to overcome these prejudices. We will have to change our spontaneous manner of seeing things from afar and we will have to learn how to overcome the dominant ideology.
B] to overcome the dominant ideology: to know the present social situation is to know the extent of the shadow of poverty in today’s world. Public opinion and social awareness often view poverty as a lack of or a scarcity of material goods. Therefore, relative poverty is considered as quite normal. In fact, from the perspective of an individualistic attitude, it is seen as quite normal that people should be concerned only about themselves and ignored and not become involved in the life of other people; from the perspective of a subjective attitude, it is seen as quite normal that people should feel that they can do whatever they want with their money; from a hedonistic perspective, it is seen as quite normal that people should enjoy the greatest pleasure in life and therefore close their eyes to those things that make them feel uncomfortable or that disturb them.
In order to engage in an encounter with those who are poor we have to overcome those attitudes because with such a mentality we leave no room for the poor .
When we are able to overcome this mentality, then there can arise in us an interest and a desire to discover the poor.
What is occurring in our society should not be seen as normal, that is, even though there is an excess of available resources, there is still inequality … and there are people who cannot participate in the economic, social and cultural benefits, benefits which abound in our society.
Let us allow our ears to be touched
Let us allow our ears to be touched by God so that, like him, we might hear the countless groans, laments and cries of the people. Let us make a decision to remove those headphones that isolate us and allow us to hear only our own small problems.
Let us allow ourselves to be guided by this God-Father
Let us allow ourselves to be guided by God-Father who blesses us, who always surprises us and who goes beyond our expectations, who despite our limitations opens a path for us and who has that strange ability to enrich us by his poverty.
God always builds with that which is small and seemingly inconsequential … he teaches us the secret of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-33). Thus, as God hears our surprise at the sentence that is handed down he helps us to come to an understanding that corrects our hidden fascination with extravagance. God mysteriously reveals himself as the God of the poor.
Let us allow ourselves to be guided by this God who wants to configure our life with his own interior dispositions of mercy … thus it would be impossible for us to remain indifferent to any form of suffering. We would be profoundly touched and our feet would run to encounter those persons who are excluded while at the same time our hands would reach out to provide effective service.
This God-Father will enflame in us a passion for fraternity, a universal fraternity so that the Church becomes a fraternity that is at the service of those who are most poor.
Let us allow ourselves to be led along the path of service on behalf of the poor
Let us allow ourselves to be led along the path of service on behalf of the poor so that, like Vincent, we might be able to live a full life and have our internal wounds healed. Let us approach those places where the poor are found and let us also allow ourselves to be drawn to them in the same way that we are drawn to a fire that is never extinguished.
That was the experience of Vincent de Paul. On the long and conflictive path of his journey toward the poor he passed through various stages. Before discovering the poor Vincent thought that poverty was “the result of those individuals not knowing how to defend themselves in this life.” Vincent was not concerned about the poor but was focused inwardly on himself.
Like Vincent, we need to place ourselves in those situations that will enable us to understand that the poor are dying of hunger and are condemned. We know that the pivotal time was 1613-1617, years during which Vincent confronted the manner in which he had been living his life and as a result questioned the authenticity of his life. As Vincent struggled through a crisis of faith he made every effort to live out the words of Jesus: Whatever you did for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40). As he reached out to the poor Vincent experienced an interior calmness and enlightenment. Folleville and Chatillôn became the places in which Vincent discovered the poor.
Later when Vincent realized that the French society was a machine that produced poverty, he said: [The poor] are my worry and my sorrow [Abelly III:117]. That experience and the discovery of the poor led Vincent to deepen his understanding of the various situations of misery. He then engaged in a struggle against the causes of such misery and looked for individuals who would work to reduce that misery.
Perhaps we need someone who will point out all of these things to us, someone who will help us see and understand. At times God, like a good teacher, will present us with situations that become an opportunity to encounter the poor. This might be some gathering or meeting, some moment of prayer or some other event that becomes an occasion to serve those who are poor. Perhaps all of this arises from a desire to serve in an authentic Christian manner or perhaps, as occurred in the life of Vincent, there is a desire to make the Church credible.
Whatever the reason it is most important to become involved in the suffering that surrounds us. It is important to reach out and see in order to know what is happening. This constant openness to human misery creates an interior sensitivity.
We know that this experience of discovering the poor makes us leave our comfort zone and enables us to put aside our own self-interest.
Let us allow ourselves to be guided by little things
Let us allow ourselves to be guided by little things  which leads us to simplify our lifestyle and acquire a spirit of simplicity, a spirit of critical discernment and a spirit of humility. This attitude also leads us to adopt a lifestyle that enables us to grow and mature in the mysticism of the poor . This maturity enables us to walk down the corridors of compassion, to engage in works of mercy, to live a simple lifestyle, to be with the poor and to share in their life and to allow the poor to show us the manner to be saved … ultimately we must take the poor off the pedestal and experience them as companions on the journey 24].
This is the path of diminishment. This is something that our society does not see as fashionable and yet all the potentialities of the Kingdom are contained in this concept. It is the path that enables us to experience the justice of God and to experience ourselves as being in solidarity with the God of the poor, in Jesus Christ.
Let us allow ourselves to recognize Christ in the poor
We not only need to know that Jesus is in the poor but we must also recognize him present in those men and women who are poor; we must enter into a relationship of solidarity with him and listen to him in order to follow and obey him. Service on behalf of the poor led Vincent to discover and encounter the face of Christ. It was this religious experience that motivated Vincent and guided his approach and the dynamics of his ministry. In this way the poor became an experience of God, an experience of Christ, evangelizer of the poor … the poor also became a source for Vincent’s spirituality.
Let us develop an attitude of gratitude
We should be grateful for the service of so many people who have helped us to recover meaning in our life: persons whom we were fortunate to meet at a time of crisis and who helped us to take the next step in our journey. There were many people who helped Vincent de Paul at decisive moments in his life, people that included well-known spiritual teachers and also included the Huguenot who questioned the ecclesial reality that was so dominant at that time and who made Vincent question his ministry.
Let us be grateful for and praise the grace that is present in those who are poor. Let us also be grateful for and praise the wonderful things that God does for the poor and does through so many persons who are merciful.
Let us be grateful for the gift of wisdom that teaches us and opens our eyes and leads us to those places where we can attain a fuller life.
Let us praise and bless the Lord for the day of judgment, the day on which the earth will achieve its justice and salvation.
A time to communicate
As we have seen, our narrative is a prophetical-apocalyptical text, one that is configured by gesture and word. As such it is not intended to transmit some teaching but rather it is meant to question us and to give us hope.
Our Vincentian charism is grounded on that word. Our experience of the living Christ in the encounter with the poor, serving the poor, clothed in an attitude of mercy  and in a spirit of humility, simplicity and charity is the source of our motivation. Today we are judged not according to our thoughts or intentions, not even according to our desires, but rather we are judged by what we see and how we listen. Today we are judged by the movement of our hearts and by the way in which we use our hands and feet (by our action): when did we see you… whatever you did to one of these least brothers or sisters (25 :39-40).
It is in our contact with reality that we verify the authenticity of our desires, our plans and our dreams. Therefore when we allow ourselves to be motivated by this text we are born anew and our senses are evangelized.
It is a well known fact that those who have encountered the poor and who have placed themselves at the service of the poor, those individuals who have had the experience of discovering Christ in the poor such persons share in the same feeling, namely, they have received more from those persons who are poor then they have given to them. Their faith, their idea of Christian commitment and even their practice of spirituality has been enriched. This spiritual experience is often vague and people are not always fully aware of what is happening nor are they exempt from the danger of romanticism or disillusionment.
We should communicate how we see one another and share how we give shape to this prophetic word in our life, in our ministry and in our institutions. As prophets, how today do we engage in this judgment? What gestures do we use? What words do we proclaim?
Let us then allow this text to pass before our eyes and let us reflect on what we read: what sources of information and formation do we have recourse to ; what kind of people do we focus on; what type of television programs do we prefer? If we would only take the time to look at the poor we would find that they present us a new model for society, a new way of being Church, a way to transform our life.
We need to learn how to look at reality from the perspective of the heart of the Father and the heart of Jesus, that is, with hearts filled with compassion and mercy and faith because then we will be able to overcome superficiality, indifference and prejudice.
Let us allow this text to penetrate our ears: the place of receptivity, attentiveness, sensitivity, acceptance and listening. We must ask ourselves which voices and opinions and judgments have the most influence on us? From what social situations do these voices come from? What experiences do we talk about? Above all else we must reflect on our ability to listen to the cries and the silence of the poor.
The experience of discovering the poor through our encounter with them sensitizes us in such a way that we are able to listen to them. This sensitivity opens our ears and our heart and leads us to ask: what is happening in our world; what are being invited to do; should we use public funds or should we resolve individual situations; should we confront the problems surrounding work and unemployment? Our world does not lack material goods or the means to resolve problems. In our world we lack goals and an urgency to make use of the means that we have available to us; we lack a vision of the future and a vision of the community; we lack systems to organize our life together and to create more positive relationships between human beings and their environment .
We need to open our ears, that is, we need to listen to the cries, the sufferings, the hopes and even the silence of the poor. In order to do this we need to live in close contact with them. We need to do this with an incarnational dynamic, a faith-filled dynamic that enables us to hear the words of the poor as the word of God.
Let us allow the text to touch our mouth: the place of the word, of comfort, of encouragement and of stimulation. Let us ask if our language is effective and able to respond to the needs of those who are poor. Let us ask if our language is professional, that is, does our language express an understanding of the situation and of the possibilities for action. Let us ask if our language is theological and thus allows us to respond as believers and as Church. Finally, let us ask if our language gives witness, in other words, is our language the silent proclamation of our lifestyle and of our ability to empathize with those in need.
Let us allow the text to touch our hands: the instruments of healing and assistance. To whom do we minister? Whom do we serve? What are the situations in which we find ourselves? What actions do we undertake as we respond to the things that we have heard from the poor?
We need actions that are evangelical and that are an expression of our reaction to the suffering of our neighbor. Therefore our action must be situated in the context of transforming the present reality and creating a model of the society that we hope to build up.
We need actions that serve as a leaven for a new way of life (small, simple actions in some specific place are those which best help people to understand the power of the Kingdom ... actions that are like the mustard seed) actions that demonstrate that things can be different. Therefore as we allow the text to touch our hands we ask ourselves: why do we do the things we do? For whom do we do these things?
Let us allow the text to touch our feet and therefore let us approach others and stand with those who are in need so that we no longer walk in circles and are not paralyzed and no longer distance ourselves from those in need. We must reflect on the places that we frequent, the people whom we visit, the situations from which we flee and the situations that we are drawn to…
Let us listen to what the Church tell us: Only a Church that reaches out to the poor and the oppressed and that stands beside these individuals, on a church that struggles and ministers on behalf of their liberation and dignity and well-being … only such a Church can give a coherent and convincing witness to the gospel message. It is right to say that the Church’s being and activity are judged by her presence in the world of poverty and pain, in the world of marginalization and oppression, in the world of weakness and suffering  .
Let us allow the text to touch our heart: the place of our motivation and feelings and desires … let us reflect on the persons to whom we feel attracted, the persons who touch us on a deep level and the causes about which we are passionate … as we reflect upon the above questions we might also ask: is our spiritual life one of integrity?
The discovery of the poor as a religious experience creates in us a source for our spirituality and a creative dynamism of the spirit. Here we are referring to a spirituality that helps us to understand and experience God, a God who is compassionate toward the poor and who therefore is revealed in the experience of the poor. At the same time we are talking about a spirituality that reveals itself in service on behalf of the poor and does this as an expression of acting in accord with the will of God. Thus the focus of this spirituality is Christ, the evangelizer and the servant of the poor.
This spirituality that gives form to our baptismal commitment, bestows upon us a vocation that becomes a source for our motivation and determines the manner in which we situate ourselves in the midst of the world. We become passionate about our spirituality and it is something that we desire and not something that we have to do. Indeed, our spirituality fills our service on behalf of the poor with gratitude.
Filled with this passion we can become pilgrims who carry in our hands, the hands and the heart of those who suffer; we can become pilgrims who share our bread and take care of those who are wounded. We lift up our eyes to the Lord in order to glorify him and we do so without knowing whether we extend our hands and our hearts to our brothers and sisters in need as the result of having our eyes fixed on God or whether we have our eyes fixed on God as a result of extending our hands to our brothers and sisters in need.
If at the end of this presentation we feel discouraged or paralyzed as a result of the stark contrast between the word and reality of our personal, community, and institutional life, then together we can look at our map to find a way to move beyond this crossroad and go out to meet the poor and the excluded, fully convinced and guided by the words of the Lord that this is indeed the privileged place to encounter Christ, the place to enter into communion with the One who is all- compassionate, the place to find our inheritance with the Lord (cf. John 13:8).
A time to conclude
Remembering that we share in the creative strength of the charism awakens our prophetic imagination which in turn helps us to confront the future with confidence and hope. The map of our life is filled with times of encounter and places of interest. The word that we have listened to is the source of the mysticism of our Vincentian charism. Therefore, it will always be like the meeting tent  where Vincentians can go in order to encounter the Lord. The God of the poor, whom we expect and who always goes before us, continues to draw us into a face to face encounter. The meeting place is always the poor.
In order to respond to this invitation, let us allow ourselves to be enflamed by his spirit as we go about our various activities. If we allow ourselves to be inspired in this way then the Vincentian charism will perdure and engender a mysticism and a spirituality that is inventive to infinity (CCD:XI:131) and thus we will always sing a new hymn.
 Burmmel Lee, I was hungry: Matthew 25:31-46 in the preaching of Saint John Chrysostom, Vox Evangelii I (Buenos aires, 1984), pp. 97-116.
 Louis Abelly, The Life of the Venerable Servant of God, Vincent de Paul, edited by John E. Rybolt, CM and translated by William Quinn, F.S.C., New City Press, New Rochelee, 1993, Vol. III, p. 115-116
 This reflection has borrowed from the following sources: Xabier Pikaza, Hermanos de Jesús y servidores de los más pequenos [The brothers and sisters of Jesus and the servants of the least of these], Sígueme, Salamanca, 1984; D.A. Alonso, Sentido del juicio final de Yahvé en apocalíptica y en Mt 25 [The meaning of the final judgment of Yahweh in the apocalyptical literature and in Matthew 25], Studium Ovetense 5 (1977), pp. 77-96; M. Avanzo, El compromiso con el necesitado en el judaísmo y en el evangelio [The commitment on behalf of those in need in Judaism and in the gospel], RevBib 35 (1973), pp. 23-41; R. Bonnard, Mt 25:31-46: questions de lecture et d’interprétation, [Matthew 25:31-46: questions of reading and interpretation], FoiVie (1977), pp. 81-86; E. Farahian, Relire Matthieu 25:31-46 [Re-reading Matthew 25:31-46] Gregorianum 72 (1991), pp. 437-457; D. Marguerat, Le jugement dan l’evangile de Mathieu [The judgment in the gospel of Matthew] Gen?ve, 1980; A. Feuillet, Le caract?re universel du jugement et la charité san fronti?res en Mt 25:31-46 [The universal character of judgment and boundless charity in Matthew 25:31-46], NRT 102 (1980), pp. 179-196; R. Obermueller, Cuando de vimos? [When did we see you?], Cuad. T. 2 (1972), pp. 197-212; Donde estuviste? [Where were you?], R.BibArg. 35 (1973), pp. 14-21; F. Vittorio, Carità, Chiesa, mundo, nella descriziones del giudizio finale (Mt 25) [Charity, Christ and the world in the description of the final judgment (Matthew 25)], RasT 26 (1985), pp. 270-274.
 In the structure of this text we do not find the typical presentation of a parable. There is only one element of a parable: the shepherd, yet in reality even this element should be seen from the perspective of a comparison that symbolically enlightens the meaning of the separation of the people.
 L. Boff, Jesucristo libertador, [Jesus Christ, the liberator], Sal Terrae, Santander, 1986; S. Galilea, El camino de la espiritualidad [The path of spirituality], Ed. Paulinas, Bogotá, 1990, pp. 181-196.
 A position held by A. Feuillet, op.cit., and many others.
 A position held by L. Cope, Matthew XXV:31-46, NT 11 (1960), pp. 32-44; S. L?gasse, Jésus et l’enfant [Jesus and the children], Paris, 1969; R. Obermuller, op.cit.
 This view sees the judgment of the Jews as having occurred in chapter 23 of Matthew’s gospel.
 For a presentation and an understanding of the present state of the question with regard to the title of the Son of Man see R. G. Theissen and A. Merz, El Jesús histórico [The historical Jesus], Sígueme, Salamanca, 1999, pp. 592-599.
 In order to understand the meaning of this word see, J. Alonso Díaz, Terminos bíblicos de justicia social y traduccion de equivalencia dinámica [Biblical words of social justice and the translation of equivalent dynamics], Fasículos bíblicos, #1, Edicabi, PPC, Madrid 1979; La Teología Bíblica configurada por la justicia [Biblical Theology configured by justice], Fascíulos bíblicos, #14, Edicabi, PPC, Madrid, 1979.
 Matthew presents this idea in his gospel 12:18-20 in a passage that is perhaps the best presentations that we have of Jesus. Matthew applies to Jesus the words of the first song of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 42:1-4) and enables us to see that Jesus has come to establish the justice of God on earth, the hope of all the people.
 In Jeremiah 1:11-14, Ezequiel 4-6, 24 … we see that the prophet is a man who accompanies his words with significant and provocative gestures. Apocalyptical literature emphasizes this tendency: the listeners do not immediately hear words or contemplate events that are charged with symbolism (cf., Daniel 2:7) but rather they hear interpretative words that reveal its message and content. Something similar occurs in Matthew 25:31-46.
 Concerning the relation between religious experience and ethics see, J. Martín Velasco, Introducción a la fenomenología de la religion [Introduction to the phenomenology of religion], Madrid, 1978, pp. 162-163, 189-193, 198-199.
 This is the experience that originates with the scene of the burning bush in Exodus 3:1ff and continues throughout the Old Testament, but especially in the prophetic experience.
 This identification is not only found in the gospels but is also found in the Acts of the Apostles when Jesus identifies himself with those whom Paul is persecuting: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? (Acts 9:4).
 Here we reflect on the words that Jesus spoke to those persons who had served the poor: Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?” Then I will declare to them solemnly, “I never knew you. Depart from me you evildoers” (Matthew 8:22-23).
 My neighbor is always some specific person. At the same time the whole world can become the object toward which I reach out and extend myself. Thus each and every person becomes my neighbor and no one is excluded. When I reach out to people and these men and women become my neighbor, then they take the place of God.
 We have to suppose that the message of our text encompasses a new element and is not a repetition of something that has already been told to them, something they already know.
 Especially those authors who adhere to the “classical” interpretation.
 The apocalyptic genre, as we know, is the result of the fusion of two biblical currents: the prophetic and the wisdom. When the prophetic literature disappeared in Israel we find the beginning of apocalyptic literature. The primary characteristic of this literature is the exaggeration of the prophetic call to conversion and the revelation of things within a very strict pre-established determination. In the text of Matthew 25:31-36 we also find the wisdom characteristic of the two paths that is taken to its ultimate consequences.
 See, Comisión Episcopal de Pastoral Social, La Iglesia y los pobres [The Church and the poor], Conferencia Episcopal Española, EDOCE, Madrid, 1994, which states: It is not uncommon to find among us the attitude of those unconcerned about the problems of public life and those who have forgotten about their social responsibility. These individuals act only when their own personal interests are at stake. They remain indifferent, however, when the aspirations and the rights of other sectors are at stake, that is, the more defenseless sectors such as the unemployed, the rural poor and the marginalized. We see this attitude manifested in the individualistic actions of those who have hardly felt the consequences of the present economic crisis and yet they seek to overcome this situation by using every form of social pressure that is at their disposal … again these individuals are only thinking about their own well-being. We also point out here those persons who, in light of the economic crisis, are nevertheless unmindful of the many, many persons who lack that which is most basic in order to live as human beings and who, in a single night, in an ostentatious and provocative manner, spend incredible amounts of money on a party or an excursion, money that would allow many families to provide for the needs of their families for months (#44).
 Joan Chittister, The Fire in these Ashes, Sheed and Ward, Kansas City, 1995; in this book there is a wonderful description of the spirituality of diminishment that is found on pages 68-77.
 T. Wiesner, Experiencing God in the poor in VINCENTIANA, Vol. 32 (1988), #3 (May-June), p. 328-336; translated in ANALES (1989, 7). The author describes in a clear and creative manner the spiritual growth of those who see the poor and the abandoned as suffering members of Christ. In doing so those individuals are following the process that various spiritual authors describe as the three stages of the spiritual life: the purgative, illuminative and unitive.
 Vincent de Paul said: I must not judge a poor peasant man or woman by their appearance or their apparent intelligence, especially since very often they scarcely have the expression or the mind of rational persons, so crude and vulgar they are. But turn the medal, and you will see by the light of faith that the Son of God, who willed to be poor, is represented to us by these poor people (CCD:XI:26). This is the manner in which we discover the value that God places upon the outcasts of society.
 To stimulate us to live in accord with the dictates of mercy and to impregnate our world so as to transform it, see, J. Sobrino, El principio misericordia [The Principle of Mercy], Sal Terrae, Santander, 1992.
 An example of this is the Guía de Formación published by Catholic Charities in Spain.
 Guía de Formación de Cáritas, #40.
 La Iglesia y los pobres [The Church and the poor], #10.
 The book of Exodus speaks about the meeting place where Moses spoke face to face with the Lord, like a friend speaking with another friend (Exodus 33:7-11). Jesus has placed his dwelling place in our midst and in a very significant way has placed himself in the midst of the poor, for he himself became poor (John 1:14).
Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM