When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O 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 welcomed me, 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, ‘Lord, when did we see Thee hungry and feed Thee, or thirsty and give Thee drink? And when did we see Thee a stranger and welcome Thee, or naked and clothe Thee? And when did we see Thee sick or in prison and visit Thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, 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, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see Thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to Thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
This has always been one of the favorite scripture passages of my own little disciples. Imagine what an awesome experience this will be! Note the first phrase: WHEN the Son of Man comes…not IF He comes; this is very interesting. Christ, the very personification of Truth Itself, tells us that He WILL truly come in His glory, with the angels, to sit on His throne and judge the nations.
Are you among the people of “the nations”? ..........I guess I am.
Will YOU be assembled there with these people?........I suppose I will.
How awesome will THAT experience be!
The tendency when reading these scriptural passages is to envision them as happening in story-land (somewhere else), in a time and place far, far away. Not this time. I’ll wave at you when I see you there, if it’s not too inappropriate. After all, it probably will be somewhat of a solemn occasion, but we will be there together! As we stand there together amidst that crowd of souls, know that when Christ the Judge begins to part the throng into two distinct groups, I pray we will be on the same side, that is, the right side. If we become separated, how great will our anxiety be! You see, there will be no excuse then, for landing amid the wrong crowd, because Our God, being the Loving God that He is, has given us the answers to this final exam of ours in today’s Gospel reading because He wants so desperately for us to be saved. Note also, that He said that those whom He sends away into eternal punishment are going there, not due to what they have done, but what they have NOT done. If we do not learn one other thing in life, not one other lesson...let us learn THIS one! So what then must we do?
Let’s follow the instructions: …
I was hungry and you gave me food
Let us understand that by feeding those who hunger, we imitate the goodness of God, Who gives us what we ask for if it is for the good of our salvation.
Psalm 107:9: For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. Matthew 7:9-11: “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?”
Luke 6:21: “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied”
When our little sister cannot reach a book on the shelf and we get it for her... When Daddy had a hard day at work and we are sure to be especially quiet and good... When we do our chores well in order to be of help to Mom... When we see others in need of nourishment, whether for the body or for the soul, we must fill them with good things and satisfy their longings in order to be like our God.
...I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
Know that we can thirst for things other than water.
Psalm 63:1-3: O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Isaiah 41:17: When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
John 6:35: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
When we know how to tie our shoes, and we offer to teach our little brother... When we help the baby learn to say her prayers... When we see that our brother wants to break a bad habit, and we keep him from temptation... When someone longs to have something, or do something, or be something, we must do what we can to help him achieve his goal in order to be like our God.
…I was a stranger and you welcomed me
How often are we among “strangers”? Most of society thinks of us Christians as foreigners, as well they should, and it is sometimes very difficult for us to fit in among them. If someone seems interested in living the life of a Christian, we must encourage and welcome them. If we seem happy to live in Christ, others will want to join us! This also means that we cannot judge the relationship that each of our neighbors has with God. We do not know their hearts or their understanding. We must remember that Jesus’ last desire before He ascended the cross was that we all be ONE!
Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Romans 14:1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.
Romans 14:3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.
Romans 15:7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
When someone needs a place to sit, and we offer him a chair
... When Grandparents come to visit us and we greet them with a hug and a kiss
... When the lady in the grocery store is in the wrong line, but we are patient and kind to her
… When others feel anxious or out of place, because we know that God loves them and we are all brothers and sisters in Him, we must encourage them and put them at ease in our company, in order to be like Our God.
… I was naked and you clothed me
Clothing the naked can sometimes be more than giving a coat or shoes to those less fortunate. Being naked causes shame; all sin should, and usually does, cause shame. Shame can keep us from a relationship with our God. Calling attention to someone else’s shame can keep us AND them from God. It is hard to recover from a sin (a mistake) when someone keeps calling you out, and making you feel badly over and over again. Discouragement may set in and cause that poor soul to give up trying to overcome the sin, and he may relapse and fall away. This does not mean that you should never bring the sinful behavior of your friend to his attention! We have an obligation to lovingly help others to be all that God created them to be, to keep them from hurting others or hurting themselves. When they do repent, however, we must allow them to move on and sin no more. This is how we must clothe the naked of spirit.
Genesis 3:10,21 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself…So the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”
...When someone makes a funny mistake and you choose not to laugh at them.
... When you choose to whisper something private to your mom rather than shout it when you're out in public
... When someone has asked your forgiveness and you NEVER bring the issue up again
… When you know that revealing someone’s past sin will make them uncomfortable or discouraged, even if it is the truth, we must cover up their shame before others in order to be like our God.
...I was sick and you visited me
If we are truly members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church, we recognize that when one member of the body is sick, all of us suffer. We can visit them physically, tending to their needs, or we can visit them spiritually and lift them up in prayer, begging God for healing on their behalf. In turn, we heal ourselves!
James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 5:14-15 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
...When Grandpa has a cold and we bring him some chicken soup
... When we hear a siren or see an ambulance or fire truck, and we stop to pray for those who are in need
… When we hear about a suffering person and we say a quick prayer for them
... When we attend a Panachida and sing prayers for the dead, although we may not even know them
... When someone is sick, we must have compassion and strive to ease their suffering in order to be like our God.
…I was in prison and you came to me
Souls can be imprisoned in so many ways. Addiction, prejudice, sloth, anger, and pride are all sins which chain and paralyze the soul. The soul that chooses to bind itself to these things soon learns that the enemy is not content to allow room for any other thing. It soon becomes so overwhelmed by these sinful dispositions that Christ is eventually abandoned all together. Because of their choice, the Christ Who dwells sacramentally in us may be the only Christ that these people ever encounter. By visiting those who don’t know Him, we bring Him to them, within ourselves, so that He can visit and heal them.
Psalm 146: The LORD sets the prisoners free…
Hebrews 13:3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.
When we show a good example of the love of Christ to others by our behavior.
.. When we help our brothers and sisters to keep the Fast
... When we help a friend to break a bad habit and encourage habits that are pleasing to God
.... When others feel helpless to draw near to Christ and His forgiveness, we must draw near to them, bringing Jesus with us. We must assist and encourage them in every way to return to Him, in order to be like our God.
Finally, who are “the least of my brethren”? Christ says that to pass the exam we need to do all these things for THEM. Here it comes…this is the hard part. They are your enemies; the LEAST favorite people in your life; those who cause you grief and pain. They are your executioners, those who ridicule and abuse you. If we fail to do good for THESE we miss the boat!
Luke 6:32-37 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.
Here we see that the final exam of life condenses down to one thing…transformation into the very image of Christ. We must imitate Him down to the very last and finest detail.
Luke 23:34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Christ rejects no one. Consider Longinus, the nearly blind Roman soldier who pierced His side with the lance, putting a hole into His Sacred Heart when He was on the cross. This executioner received the gift of perfect vision when some of the precious blood, the very blood that was spilled BY HIM, was splashed into his nearsighted eyes! Jesus touched the ear of Malchus, another soldier, and healed it before the very same man dragged Him off to death. Judas was given the Body of Christ before his betrayal of that very Body into the hands of the enemy. Christ’s love knows no bounds! He fed, healed and forgave the least of His brethren as an example to us, so that we could look to Him, and learn about the perfect love that is necessary to pass this final exam. He desires that we become perfect images of Him!
This week, as we contemplate the answers to the Final Exam, brainstorm ways that your family can put these messages into practice during the Great Fast.
Craft a coin bank to keep near your prayer corner and collect spare change to donate to help the poor!
Clean out your closet and collect some clothes that don’t fit you anymore and donate them!
Start looking now and put them aside so that when the day comes to collect them and give them to the poor, you’ll be ready.
Begin to collect boxes of canned goods and pantry items to give to Father so he can distribute them to any poor and hungry soul who may come to his door.
Make up some spiritual bouquet cards for Father to take with him on his sick calls. Be sure to keep him well supplied with these items not only now, but after the Fast as well!
Take a moment to devise a plan for Fasting for yourself and your family. How will we fast? What are the Fasting Regulations for our Eparchy and how will we meet them properly? Do we have our pantry properly stocked, and did we put away the foods that will challenge our fasting resolve?
Let no one tell you that you are too small to be a little lamb for Jesus!
(taken from The Zacchaeus Tree, by Lynne Wardach;
available on the Gift Shop page at ByziMom.com)