“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.’” (Matt 25: 34-40)
“Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively.” (Art. 14a, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)
“Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.” (Art. 15, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)
The above verse from the Gospel of Matthew was part of the Gospel reading proclaimed at the funeral of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. And listening to it caused me to reflect on how times have changed. When I was growing up, it was generally assumed that when it came to feeding the poor, caring for the sick, clothing the naked, etc.; that was the responsibility of the clergy and the religious. Our role was to kick in a few bucks to help support the work. But since the Second Vatican Council, we, the laity, have discovered that the parable Jesus taught about the last judgment, was directed towards all of us. Each one of us has a responsibility to be active in our communities, to see to it that the poor are taken care of, to be a voice for those who have no voice in our society. Wherever and whenever the opportunity may arise, we are to proclaim the compassionate power of the Gospel by our daily lives.