The showing of mercy on earth becomes an eternal trajectory in Matthew 21: 31-45, the final parable we will explore. In the story, sheep show mercy, goats do not. And the two are separated according to mercy given or withheld.
We have looked at mercy from so many angles in Pope Francis’ writings that the only thing I want to point out in this parable is that our final judgment (according to this parable) is made relative to things any of us can do: feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick and the imprisoned.
The eternal trajectory carries forward an achievable simplicity. No one comes to the final judgment able to say, “I did not understand what I was supposed to do.” The whole enterprise has a tangible specificity to it. God’s will is do-able.
Of course, there is a symbolic nature in every parable. The hungry, thirsty, naked, strangers, sick, and imprisoned are those who have been shamed, shunned, marginalized, abused, forgotten, overlooked, degraded, or discriminated against. Beyond the literalness of the parable, we will be asked if we have shown mercy to any who are in need.
We are on the eternal trajectory this very moment, and it is the trajectory of mercy. The only outstanding question is whether we are living here and now like sheep or goats.