When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." What a frightful prospect is this Final Judgment, that shall be revealed at the end of time! It is truly dreadful to contemplate, precisely because it is final. For while it is certain that there is no repentance after death, one can nevertheless hope to be delivered from hell through the prayers of the Church. But on that Day when our Lord returns to judge the living and the dead, the can be no recourse nor possibility of acquittal for those who have failed in this earthly life to abide by the Law of Love as set forth in the Gospel of Christ.
And according to this passage, it all comes down in the end to whether or not we have been willing during our earthly pilgrimage to minister in a concrete way to the least of Christ's brethren: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned--all for the sake of the love of God that dwells in our hearts.
And if--God forbid--we shall be found lacking, what can we possibly say in our defense? Perhaps: "I saw Facebook posts of starving children and war-torn refugees, and I clicked 'like' and 'share.'" Or: "I prayed for world peace and participated in protest marches against injustice." Or: "I willingly paid my taxes so that the government can set up programs to help the poor." And for good measure, I even honked my horn to prove that I love Jesus! All well and good... but what is truly personal about any of this? Because the God we worship is a personal God, so is our love and compassion toward the least of Christ's brethren meant to be person to person, face to face, while we strive to see in every person we encounter the face of Christ and the Image of God--no matter how darkened or distorted this Image may be.
It should be understood, however, that it is not because we dutifully performed such acts of charity that we are saved. It is rather according to the disposition of our heart that God judges us. If our love for God and our fellow man is genuine and sincere, we will naturally do those things that are needful for our salvation--often without thinking twice (after all, the sheep themselves did no remember what they had done to deserve such a reward). A humble and contrite heart God will not despise; nor will He fail to impart His grace and mercy unto a heart burning with compassion and a fervent desire to endure sacrificial suffering on behalf of those downcast and less fortunate.
Opportunities abound in our daily lives to put into practice the faith we profess. Unfortunately, we are often too blind and distracted to see far beyond our own selfish needs and desires. Like the goats in the Gospel passage, we are clueless regarding those times when we failed to minister unto the least of Christ's brethren. And so may God have mercy on us all, and grant to us a new beginning as we prepare to enter into the season of the Great Fast.