Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,
 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.
 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of 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, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'
 Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?
 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?
 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?'
 And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'
 Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, 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,
 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'
 Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?'
 Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.'
 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
- Matthew 25.31-46, RSV
Today's gospel is based on Christ's teaching on the last judgment. We have all heard this passage before, and we may be inoculated to its teaching.
As I read this passage this morning, I reflected on whether I really do recognize Christ in the hungry, poor, sick, and those in prison. My ability to recognize Christ in the disenfranchised is to a certain extent a measure of my faith.
Most Christians in America believe that we are saved by faith only. We in the Orthodox Church too say we are saved by grace through faith. But we do not separate good works from faith. We do not say we are justified by faith alone. True faith has good works with it.
In a classic passage people use as a proof text for salvation by grace through faith only, it is clear that works are the result of true faith:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.- Ephesian 2.8-10, NRSV.
God prepared beforehand good works to be "our way of life." Good works in the Gospel of the last judgment have not to do with Church observances, Lenten fasting, attending Liturgies, receiving the Mysteries even. No, good works, in the teaching of the Last Judgment, have to do with how we respond to the poor and needy. This is a test of true faith, our ability to recognize Christ in the poor.
Notice that one of the manifestations of Christ in this parable is that of the Stranger. Some commentators say that all of these manifestations- the poor, the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, stranger, prisoner- represent Christian missionaries traveling among the Nations, who are gentiles or pagans. To the degree this interpretation is correct, we have to say that even those who are not in the Church show true faith by ministering to the needy. This agrees well with St. Paul's teaching in Romans (c.f. Rom. 2.6-10).
I understand this teaching as referring to all who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, strangers, and prisoners. And all those who minister to them, whether Christians or non-Christians, show that the grace of Christ is at work in them.
In the Old Testament, Yahweh identifies Himself with the poor in several passages, especially in the book of Proverbs:
Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honour him. - Proverbs 14.31
Those who mock the poor insult their Maker; those who are glad at calamity will not go unpunished. - Proverbs 17.5
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full. - Proverbs 19.17
If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard. - Proverbs 21.13
These passages clearly teach that God identifies Himself with the poor. If we want God to hear our cry, we need to hear the cry of the poor. It is the cry of God. The Rich man, Dives, in Luke chapter 16 ignored the cries of the poor, and found himself in hell. His cries were ignored; he could not even get a cold drop of water to cool his tongue in the flame (Luke 16.19-31). This is also why I believe that we should be concerned about social justice for the poor and to advocate for them politically as well as with our private charity, because we cannot ignore the cries of the poor. For us to accept conditions of oppression and unjust social structures, and to not address the plight of the poor in a social context, is to ignore their cry. The Bible is full of calls for us to advocate for the poor (e.g., Proverbs 31.8,9; Isaiah 1.17; Jeremiah 22.16, etc.).
Saint John Chrysostom teaches us that if we want to honor Christ in Church, we must honor him in the poor. If we want to honor the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, we must honor that same Body of Christ in the poor:
"Do you wish to honour the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: "This is my body" is the same who said: "You saw me hungry and you gave me no food", and "Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me"... What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well." - St. John Chrysostom, John Chrysostom, In Evangelium S. Matthaei, hom. 50:3-4: PG 58, 508-509
Bishop Frank Weston in 1923 proclaimed this to the Anglo-Catholic Congress:
"You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slums...It is folly- it is madness- to suppose you can worship Jesus in the Sacraments and Jesus on the throne of Glory, when you are sweating Him in the souls and bodies of his children."
The teaching on the Last Judgment comes one week before the beginning of Great Lent. It is there to remind us that our Lenten practice should not be about form and ritual, fasting and church practices only; it should indeed lead us to faith, compassion, and good works, and to recognizing Christ in those who are disenfranchised.