Sunday of the Last Judgment
The commemoration for this Sunday is taken from the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ concerning his Second Coming and the Last Judgment of all, both the living and the dead. In today’s Gospel reading, Christ speaks about what will happen at this specific point in time when He will ‘come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him’.
At His coming, ‘He will sit on the throne of His glory,’ and all of the nations will be gathered before Him. He will separate them ‘as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats’. The sheep will be placed on His right hand, and the goats on the left.
To the sheep, He will say ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’. This kingdom is offered to the sheep because of their compassion and service to those in need. Jesus says, ‘…for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
When asked how this could be so, Christ answers them by saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to the least of these My brethren, you did it to me’.
Seated on His throne of judgment, Christ will then turn to the goats on His left and say, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’. They will be condemned because they did not feed Him when He was hungry, give Him drink when He was thirsty, take Him in when He was a stranger, clothe Him when He was naked, visit Him when He was sick or in prison.
This is the scene at the dread judgment day, a day that awaits each and every one of us. It is a sobering thing to realize that we must stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an accounting of our life.
And what is it that the Lord Jesus Christ will ask of us? I think, as this morning’s Gospel makes clear, the essential question that will be put before us by our Lord Jesus Christ is this: ‘Have you loved Me?’
When Christ was hungry, did we give Him food? When He was thirsty, did we give Him drink? When He came to us as a stranger, did we take Him in? In all of our daily actions and thoughts – do we show love for Christ? And have we recognized that in all of our acts, in all or our thoughts, in all of our interactions with ‘the least of these My brethren’, we are expressing or not expressing our love for Christ Himself?
Let us reflect on this awe-striking image of standing before the judgment seat of Christ. What shall we answer on that fateful day when He asks us: ‘Have you loved Me?’
During Great Lent we are called to discipline ourselves with fasting, to increasing our prayer, with a call to reducing the distractions in our lives, to works of charity, to extending ourselves in love toward those around us. What is the point of all this? Why do we fast, why do we pray, why do we strive toward kindness and generosity of spirit toward others? All must be done out of love for Christ our God!
During this season of Great Lent, we will find ourselves confronted with choices about what we might eat. May we be guided in that struggle with the remembrance of Christ’s question: ‘Have you loved Me?’… responding to the call of the Fast with love for Christ.
We will find ourselves confronted with choices about whether or not we will make some time to say our prayers. May we also be guided with the remembrance of Christ’s question: ‘Have you loved Me?’… recognizing that He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks, seeking to come and be with us.
We will find ourselves confronted with choices about how we will react to temptations and the provocations of those around us. In all these things, may we be guided with the remembrance of Christ’s question: ‘Have you loved Me?’… remembering that whatsoever we do those around us, we do to Christ Jesus.
If we can approach our Lenten fast with this guiding thought in our hearts and minds – Am I doing all that I can to love God? - we will be attending to the fast in the right spirit.
Our efforts to discipline ourselves should be done out of love for God, as a means of expressing our love and gratitude to God, and as a means by which we raise our mind, warm our heart, and tame our will toward loving God more fully.
May we strive to live our lives in such a way that we may stand before our Lord, when He asks us, ‘Have you loved Me?’… answering in sincerity and purity of heart, ‘Yea, O Lord, you know that I love you!’ And may we then be blessed to hear those most precious and longed-for words: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant… Enter ye into the joy of your Lord.’ Amen