The Gospel of Matthew for Meatfare Sunday (Judgment Sunday – Math. 25:31-45)

The Last Judgment – The Law of Judgment – Everlasting Life, and Ever­lasting Hell.

Because of the fact that God endowed man with reason, or logicality, and moral freedom, and gave him a law in accordance wherewith he is obliged to think and to act at all times, God will at some time or other in the future call him to account and demand to be given a full report of how he has used these goods, whether they be of a material or of an immaterial nature; while man, on the other hand, will have to submit a plea in defense of his actions to God and give an account of what he has done. Certain it is that we are works, or creatures, of God endowed with logicality, or the faculty of reasoning, and with moral freedom, or the liberty to choose what is morally right or what is morally wrong, under a law of liberty – that is to say, with the provision that we are to be held responsible to God for any violation on our part of the law restricting our liberty, or right, of action.

Hence it is plain that we are in duty bound to work in accordance with the divine law and to do whatever we can to achieve, or actualize, the des­tiny we have to fulfill. That we are accountable and responsible before God our creator and maker and lawgiver, and that at some time or other in the future we shall have to give an account of our acts, and that we shall de­serve to be rewarded if we have acted in accordance with the divine law, but to be penalized and punished if, on the contrary, we have not acted in ac­cordance therewith – this, too, is also certain, for it is a consequence of the first fact. Have we been created by God? Have we had the law given to us by God? If so, then it is a foregone conclusion that we shall be judged and that at some time or other we shall be compelled to stand trial and have our case tried judicially by God. This means that at some time or other in the future we shall be summoned to a judicial trial and have our case tried, and each of us shall receive whatever is due to us according to our deeds. The divine law is valid, and, it is to be noted, that a lawgiver presupposes a judge; for otherwise the law would be invalid or ineffective, if not accom­panied with rewards and punishments.

Are you free? are you under a law? If so, it is a foregone conclusion that you are also accountable and responsible, and you shall at some time or other in the future render an account to show whether you have done right or wrong. But the particular period as well as the particular point of time of universal judgment is unknown to us. Everyone upon dying passes into judgment; and judgment for everyone is his death. Nevertheless, God re­veals to us that at some time or other He will call all men to judgment uni­versally and that this to be “in the last day (John 12:48). Hence it is to be inferred that the day of universal judgment will be after the present life has been finished. Concerning this universal judgment Jesus Christ says the following:

”When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them, as a shepherd di­videth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matt. 25:31-33).

Jesus Christ Himself, who suffered and rose from the dead through resurrection and was taken up into heaven through assumption is destined to come again, in His second advent, to judge the living and the dead, and as a just and righteous judge to render to each and every person according to his deeds and works. The present season is a season for repentance and moral reformation and progression. Accordingly, the Gospel invites all men to be­lief, to repentance and correction of life, and moral adjustment and perfec­tion. Until the time of universal judgment the door is open to divine mercy and grace; but in the day of judgment God will make no concessions in favor of anyone – that is to say, He will bestow mercy upon no one, but, on the contrary, will judicially try and judge and requite every man according to his deeds and works as a stern and inexorable judge with justice and right­eousness. Sitting upon a throne of glory as a righteous and impartial judge He will summon all nations before Him, and draw a distinction between them, and will separate them from one another: thereupon, those who have lived a Christian life He will place on His right hand, but those who have lived an un-Christian life on His left hand, and, judging with justice and righteousness He will render His unbiased decision.

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hµngry, and ye gave me to eat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was ill, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came to me.” (Matt. 25:34-36).

The Lord calls those who have lived a Christian life blessed of God, and He summons them to inherit the divine kingdom prepared for them ever since the foundation of the world; and by way of justifying and assigning the reason for this decision of His, He tells them that they have deserved and have become worthy of the kingdom of God because they conformed with the law of divine love, and became beneficent and gave a part of the goods they possessed to the brethren of Christ, to the Lord Himself, who re­fers to His own person the benefactions and favors bestowed upon His brethren. “I was hungry,” He says, “and ye gave me to eat.” Personally, how­ever, they are conscientiously unaware of having conferred any benefaction upon Christ, and on this account they are led to reply, by saying:

“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee to drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw wt thee ill, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and sav unto them, Verilv I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these brethen of one, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:37-40).

By the phrase “the least of these brethren of mine” the Lord was re­ferring to His disciples and apostles and all those who continued their work and who voluntarily became poor and suffered persecutions and privations and imprisonments and hardships of other kinds in this world for the Gos­pel. That it was these men, whom the world regarded as vile and reprobate and of least account, that Christ was referring to as His brethren is plain also from what He Himself said in Capernaum when while teaching in a house He learned that He was being sought by His mother and His brothers. In reply He said: “Who is my mother? and who are my brothers? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brothers! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matt. 12:48-50). So He says to the righteous, who have done all their deeds and performed all their works in accordance with the law of Christian love, that “whatever good ye have done to these disciples of Mine who are now glorified and seated upon a throne of glory, ye have done the same very good to Me; for I am inseparable from them, since they too are morally united with Me inseparably.”

“Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hun­gry, and ye gave me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; ill, and in prison, and ye visited me not.” (Matt. 25:41-43).

The Lord called those on the left hand accursed – that is to say, deprived of divine grace and blessing – and He consigned them to the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels, because they failed to confer benefac­tions upon the brethren of Christ, for, instead of doing so, they ignored them when they saw them hungry, thirsty, naked, and in sore straits, inasmuch as they denied what is called good to the workers of the Gospel for want of faith and of ‘Christian love. In other words: “Ye denied the good ye possessed to the brethren of Christ, and refused to give them thereof; accordingly, Christ will therefore justly deny to you the good of everlasting life, and will re­fuse to give you thereof. Ye did no beneficent deed; therefore neither is it just or right that ye should have any benefaction conferred upon you.” Everyone receives according to what he has done. But those on the left hand being conscientiously aware that they have never personally seen the One sitting upon the throne, reply:

“Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hun­gry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or ill, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily, I say unto you, Inas­much as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” (Matt. 25:44-45)

Every benefaction conferred upon the person of His disciples and apos­tles and workers of the Gospel, who were acting after the likeness and in the same way that was characteristic of Christ, is referred to Christ Himself. But these persons, never having conferred any benefaction upon the brethren of Christ, have failed to bestow anything in the nature of a bene­faction or good deed upon Christ Himself.

Consequently, it is but right and just that they should be deprived of the good which they themselves have denied to others. They shut their bowels of mercy to the wants and the indigence of the brethren of Christ, and they showed utter lack of affection for those who, informed with love, sacrificed themselves for the glory of God and the common good. They were loved, but they failed to love in return. They spent money for their own per­sonal and selfish wants, but they would not sacrifice a penny for the brethren of Christ. They ignored their most essential duty, that of doing good and conferring benefactions, and even in the face of the needy they remained inflexible and unyielding. They contented themselves with the observance of ecclesiastical formalities and rites, and with the appellation of Christian; on the other hand, they disregarded and scorned the essential law of love. They did not emulate the Savior, in whom they believed only with their lips; neither did they follow His example in the observance and keep­ing of the commandment of love. They had the faith of the lips, but were destitute of the faith of the heart. They were Christians in name, but not in actual fact. What does it signify if they were righteous and just because they observed the negative law of God? They should have observed also the positive law of love. “Depart from evil,” says the Prophet, “and do good” (Psalm 37:27). By keeping and observing the positive law of love one be­comes elevated to the high rank of a perfect Christian; that is to say, keep­ing the positive law of love makes one a perfect Christian.

In fact, Christianity is application in practice of the law of love. It is a manifestation of perfect benevolence and of perfect goodness: in a word, it is self-sacrifice and self-denial. But love without faith and hope cannot possi­bly grow in the heart. On this account, therefore, whoever possesses Chris­tian love possesses also faith in Christ and in the Christian truths, and possesses the hope arising therefrom. All who are good and benevolent and full of love enter the everlasting kingdom of God. Those, on the other hand, who are destitute of love, are also destitute of goodness and of benevolence. Accordingly, as selfish, self-seeking, and self-complacent, they are estranged from the divine life and have no claim upon it. For this reason the Lord goes on to say:

“And these shall depart into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into everlasting life.” (Matt. 25:46).

He refers to the punishment of those who are destitute of goodness and of benevolence and of love as everlasting, and He also calls the life of the righteous everlasting, meaning, by this term, perpetual, unceasing, and end­less. The first ones referred to are affiicted, grieved, and pained everlastingly and for ever, whereas the righteous and just are glad, and are cheered ever­lastingly and for ever by living in God. The pain suffered by the former is the evil that resides within them. The joy, on the other hand, and the cheer which fall to the lot of the righteous and just are the good which resides in their heart. Everlasting pain, on the one hand, and everlasting cheer, on the other hand. The cheer is life; the pain, however, is punishment. Life in God is the lot of the righteous and just; and life far away from God is the lot of those who stand on the left. It is up to us to see that we are standing on the right side of Christ, and this we can do if we are enlightened by His words and remain faithful to Him by doing good and applying in practice the commandment of divine love.

I hope, my Lord, that all of us who love Thee shall be standing by Thy side at Thy right hand, and shall hear Thy blessed voice saying: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foun­dation of the world.” So be it. Thus, therefore, shall the end of the human world be the judgment and the separation of the righteous and just from the unrighteous and wicked; and life everlasting shall be reserved for the pious and good and benevolent, but punishment everlasting for the impious and wicked.

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