The Judgment of the Nations
St. Augustine says: “Essentially, there are two kinds of people, because there are two kinds of love. One is holy the other is selfish. One is subject to God the other endeavors to equal Him.”
Today’s Gospel gives us a casual picture of what will happen on the Day of Judgment. But I wonder why this gospel passage is placed at the beginning of Lenten season. I’m sure this is because the Church wants to offer us a positive stimulus to personal conversion and amendment. The Church reminds us too that the Lord Himself will certainly return as a Supreme Judge and this is not a remote possibility. We will be judged individually based fundamentally on the standard of real love in the form of works of mercy. That is, the “sheep” will inherit eternal life because they respond to real needs before them while the “goats” will inherit damnation because they fail to respond to those same needs.
On the Day of Judgment separation is inevitable. The Day of Judgment will reveal those who have shown true compassion and mercy toward their neighbor. God will judge us not only for the wrong we have done but also for what we have failed to do. That is why Jesus teaches us a very important lesson about loving our neighbor and taking responsibility for them.
This parable is similar to the parable about Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man let Lazarus die on his doorstep who desired to be fed with what fell from his table and he had not thought of giving it to the poor man. I read this story about St. Martin of Tours (4th century), a young Roman soldier and seeker of the Christian faith that met an unclothed man begging for alms in the freezing cold. He stopped and cut his coat in two and gave half to the beggar. That night he dreamed he saw the heavenly court with Jesus robed in a torn cloak. One of the angels present asked Him: “Master, why do you wear that battered cloak?” Jesus replied, “My servant Martin gave it to me.” As a consequence of this vision Martin flew to be baptized.
Jesus expects us to find Him under the veil of His humanity even if when that humanity was full of blood and writhing in agony. But also He expects us to encounter Him in other people. No matter how disgusting some people may appear to us Jesus identifies Himself with all those need to be served. Especially that everyday here in the Philippines, Jesus who identifies Himself with the lost, the least and the last, is trampled upon, sneered at and killed in the shattered homes and broken lives of the poor. Whatever we have done to them Jesus says that this is also done to Him, (v. 40). The Blessed Mother Teresa beautifully said: “If sometimes our poor people have had to die out of starvation, it is not because God didn’t care for them, but because you and I…were not instruments of love in the hands of God, because we did not recognize Christ when once more Christ came in distressing disguise.”
God is so gracious and merciful to us. Do we treat our neighbor with mercy and love as Christ has treated us?