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By Most Rev. Bishop Kenneth Povish | June 2003

What side of the Lord do you stand on?

The fifth beatitude occupies a special place in the teaching of the Gospel of St. Matthew. In Chapter 5 he quotes our Lord’s promise that those who are merciful shall themselves be shown mercy. In Chapter 25 he quotes our Lord’s warning that the corporal works of mercy are the criteria the Son of Man will use at the Last Judgment when He “separates the sheep from the goats.” The sheep He will place on His right, the goats on His left.

Those on His right will inherit the Kingdom because they fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, and visited the imprisoned.

When we do these merciful acts as the result of our personal observation or experience of the less fortunate, we are doing the corporaI works of mercy. When we donate to food banks and clothing drives, when we volunteer in soup kitchens, show hospitality to immigrants and migrants, or when we contribute to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, we are doing the works of mercy.

Jesus assures us that whatever we do for such unfortunates we really do for Him, and so the righteous (those on the right) will go off to eternal life.

At the Judgment those on his left will complain, but the Lord’s response to them will be: “What you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” And they will go off to eternal punishment.

To be sure that we end up with the sheep on the Lord’s right, and that we won’t stand empty-handed before the Judge on that Great and Final Day, let’s never forget the fifth beatitude.