CHRIST THE KING
Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
DECISIVE ISSUE AT THE LAST JUDGMENT
A personal judgment at the end of life and a universal judgment at the end of time come as no surprise. Man was created free but also “accountable.” Everyone will have to account to the Eternal Judge for the way he/she has used His gifts and opportunities.
However, what comes as a surprise in the dramatized account of the Last Judgment presented by Jesus is the “limited scope” of accountability. Though granting that the instances mentioned by the Judge are not exhaustive, the fact remains that they are all and only about our attitudes/actions toward people. Not a single question about our attitude toward God.
This is surprising indeed for – after all – wasn’t Jesus the one who taught his disciples to pray, who wanted them to pray always (see Lk 18:1), and who himself spent hours in prayer? (See Mt 6:9 and Lk 6:12.) And was He not the one who stated that the greatest commandment is to love God with all one’s heart, soul and mind? (See Mt 22:37-38.)
And yet, today, we seem to learn from him that what will matter in the end will be only the way we treat our neighbor, especially the needy! Only the second group of commandments seems to hold.
Reflecting further, however, the surprise ceases. Actually, we find it could not be otherwise. With the Incarnation, God has become a brother to every human being. It is not just a matter of proximity and relation, but a matter of effective identification. In addition to loving God in Himself, we have also to see, love, and serve God in our neighbor. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me!” (See Mt 25:40.)
The Last Judgment is the mystery of the Incarnation brought to its utmost practical consequences. It is not that God and our love for Him have been “left out.” They are “in” as an indispensable prerequisite. But the Gospel for today reminds us that our love for God has to be proven through the way we treat people, especially the people we dislike and those we usually avoid: the hungry, the sick, the unpleasant, the convicts . . . .
These are some of the categories of people in whom it is so difficult to see Christ, the all-holy God. To see and serve Christ in them demands not only mercy and generosity, but an immense faith as well. The Final Judgment will be a judgment on our practical acceptance of the Word who became “flesh,” a judgment on our “Yes” to the God steeped in our very frailty and needs.