My spiritual director back between 1990 and 1994, Fr. Anthony of Jersey City, NJ, counseled me to think at the end of every day in my “examen of consciousness” (see St. Ignatius) of this question: are those whom I encountered today (1) likely to have encountered Christ in my words and actions and (b) was I able to encounter Christ in them?
Fact is, on the Last Day Jesus will be little concerned with how we related to him “directly,” but greatly concerned with how we met and manifested him in/to the neighbor. While our “direct” relationship with Him in prayer and Sacrament is absolutely crucial to our spiritual life, that intimate God-relationship only finds its lasting and sweetest fruit in the condition we leave our neighbor: better or worse.
For the years since Fr. Anthony unloaded that maxim on me it has proved a most useful game-changer for thinking about my manner of life and has provided the most fruitful source of pardonable matter for my sacramental Confession.
Desert father St. Antony of Egypt makes this point for us in his customarily pithy way:
Our life and our death is with our neighbor. If we gain our brother, we have gained God, but if we scandalize our brother, we have sinned against Christ.