Gospel: Matthew 25:31–46
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of 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; 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.” Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Then He will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting 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; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.” Then they will answer Him, saying “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?” Then He will answer them saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.” And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
With the end of Jesus’s earthly ministry quickly approaching, He shares this story about the final judgment. We know that Jesus will return and at His second coming all will be judged. Since we do not know when this will occur, it is important that we as Christians remain prepared so that we can be numbered among the sheep. In this passage, we are told very specifically what we will be judged for: our acts of Christian love toward others. This love challenges us to go beyond society’s notion of charity and calls us to see Christ in everyone, serving each person as we would Christ. This Sunday is also known as Meatfare Sunday. After this day, we begin to fast from meat products.
One Sunday, as parishioners arrived at church, they were horrified to see a dirty homeless man begging for change on the steps as they entered church. Everyone quickly walked by without saying so much as a word to the man. As they took their seats in church, they waited for the pastor, who appeared to be running late. After most of the parishioners arrived, to their horror the homeless man came into the church and walked to the front. When he reached the pulpit, he removed the glasses and hat he was wearing; the parishioners could see that this was not a homeless man but in fact their pastor. Still in the tattered and dirty clothes, he began his sermon by saying, “Today I want to talk about Christian love.”
Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever. Amen.
Knowing the commandments of the Lord, let this be our way of life; let us feed the hungry, let us give the thirsty drink, let us clothe the naked, let us welcome strangers, let us visit those in prison and the sick. The Judge of all the earth will say even to us: ‘Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you.’
—from the Vespers of Judgment Sunday