John Wesley, Anglican priest and the founder of Methodism, divided spiritual practices into two categories: Works of Piety and Works of Mercy. Works (or Acts) of Piety include spiritual practices that are familiar to most Christians: prayer, fasting, studying the Scriptures, communal worship, and meditation.
However, just as important as these acts that strengthen our own personal faith and spiritual lives are the Works (or Acts) of Mercy that demonstrate justice and compassion toward others. These are the actions that Jesus speaks of in today’s parable: tending the sick, visiting those in prison, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, and meeting the needs of the poor. These address not only the spiritual lives of those in need, but their physical bodies as well. Jesus concludes his parable by saying when we complete Works of Mercy for others, it was as if we were doing them for Jesus Himself.
During Lent, we are quick to add individual spiritual practices that focus on our own piety, but we may neglect these Works of Mercy that Jesus commanded and John Wesley encouraged. But Works of Mercy and Works of Piety are two sides of the same coin, and we cannot live a full life for Christ without them both.