Our church is studying the teachings of social justice as given by the Catholic Church. This is an area that is somewhat new to me. I have always known that God loves the poor and wants us to take care of them. I have read Matthew 25 and realized the great importance of this. But I don't think I have seen it as the Church's mission.
In my mind, the Church's mission was to preach the good news that Christ came to save us from our sins and grant us eternal life. That is a very important part of the Church's mission. But we have also been commissioned to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, and bury the dead. This is how we demonstrate the love of God. This is how we become part of the answer to our own prayer when we pray, "Our Father... Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
It is interesting to me that our involvement in such issues is the criteria by which we will be judged. Yet, so many think this is unimportant and has nothing to do with our eternal salvation. Nowhere does the Scripture indicate that we will need to pass a theological exam to get into heaven. We will not have to tell Jesus why He should let us into heaven or answer trick questions about faith and grace. Instead, we will be judged by our works. Yes, that's right- our works! We have either ministered to Jesus in the form of the "least of these" or we have not. It's pretty simple, fair, and objective.
Now some will begin to worry that I am advocating salvation by works. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yet, it is true that faith without works is dead. While one may have works without faith, one cannot have faith without works. To think differently is to be deceived about the true nature of faith and to be lost in the end. Faith works through love (Gal. 5:6).
If we want to show God how much we love Him, we will serve the poor. If we want to demonstrate our love for our neighbor, we will serve the poor. If we will live by the Golden Rule, we will serve the poor. If we would be like our Lord, we will serve the poor. This is what it means to be a Christian. It is not just about knowing the Word and worshiping God. It is about service. It is about putting feet to our faith.
This is a beginning in an understanding of social justice. There is more- lots more. But this is a good place to start. Jesus wants us to love these and serve them. I'm looking for more and better ways to do that. I hope you are too.