Whatever You Did For One of the Least of These, You Did For Me

by Karen Cortez, 2021 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellow in Lived Theology

I first found out about the Project on Lived Theology (PLT) sometime last summer.  I was on UVA’s Religious Studies website, trying to figure out which class I should take during the upcoming semester, when I found myself doing a deep dive of the entire PLT website. I was met with people who were doing incredible things to bring about good in their communities, inspired by their own faith or the faith of others, and I wanted to learn more.

For my research this summer, I am looking at the role that faith-based organizations play in alleviating communities affected by poverty. I am particularly interested in learning more about faith leaders who championed a life dedicated to this type of activism and about the theologies that motivate these leaders to live lives dedicated to this type of work. 

I was led to this topic by my own experience growing up serving in homeless shelters with my churches as well as going on service trips with my youth group and my current college fellowship. Whenever we would get a chance to speak with the leaders of the organizations we would partner with, they would often speak from the heart about uplifting and serving, through whatever means they could, those marginalized in their communities by homelessness, food insecurity, or socioeconomic status. Many of them would often cite Jesus’ statement in Matthew 25:34-40 as the motivation for their service: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” It was amazing to see how one’s belief in these verses could manifest itself in such works of good, and it always left me wondering what I could do to live that life too.

I am so grateful and excited to be spending my last summer as an undergrad thinking, reading, and learning more about my topic, and to be doing it alongside the rest of the fellows. I am hopeful for a summer that will not only teach me how others live out their own theologies but will show me the ways in which I can do so as well, for the good of myself and for those around me. 

Learn more about the 2021 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship in Lived Theology here.

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.