Judgement Sunday – Attending to Love in the Simplist of Ways
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matt 25:34-40
This Sunday marks the last of the 3-Sunday preparatory period before Great and Holy Lent which will begin on the evening of February 26th with Forgiveness Sunday Vespers.
In the gospel reading for today Christ explains the end times and how He will come in all of His glory, sitting on his throne surrounded by His angels. Like the Shepard He will separate His faithful ones, the sheep, from his unfaithful ones, the goats. The story has a similar literary structure to show the dichotomy and when both parties ask when they saw Christ in each state listed He replies, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these…you did for me”
We are taught and reminded over and over in all the theology and literature about humility, love and prayer fulness. When I read the list of acts Christ references one word comes to mind: hospitality.
I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me drink.
Think of the people you find to be the most kind-hearted genuine people in the world. When you go to their home, how do they generally welcome you? My guess is they are asking you what they can do to make you comfortable and offer an array of food and drink. We see the same hospitality whenever we visit a monastery. Visitors are often invited for snacks or dinner, and I never remember leaving a monastery in Greece without a Turkish delight in hand. Food and drink are one of the most basic ways we show hospitality to our guests.
But of course, Christ is not only referring to those we know and love. There are hungry people all around us. The poor, of course, come to mind easily; as does our obligation to help their needs. For any who are hesitant to give freely to anyone in the streets, remember that our church has provided wonderful opportunities to do so in a way that ensures our work goes to those who need it through organizations such as IOCC and OCMC.
There are also those around us who hunger and thirst and yet show no physical signs of malnutrition. These, of course, are the individuals we may be friends with or work with. They may hunger for love and thirst for knowledge. They are the soul-searchers who are searching for satisfaction but have not figured out where to find it. We are called to be witnesses to everyone around us. We do not have to fly to Africa to do missions, we have a mission in our own right, wherever God has placed us. We are called to act as Christ taught us and serve as an example of Him. By serving as an example we can bring people to Christ without saying a word.
“I was a stranger and you invited me in”
Once again we do not need to look far and wide for strangers to talk to! We may not all feel we are adequate at striking up conversations with complete strangers, creating a friendship and bringing them to church. But think of any Sunday. Did you know every person in your church? Every single one? What about that young couple in the back row? Or that middle-aged woman by herself in the corner? Did you reach out to them Sunday? Starting new in a parish is a scary endeavor, especially if you have no ties to the parish and it is a very large one. There is so much a smile and a “welcome” can do for that person. By doing so we are inviting new parishioners and visitors in to our community.
“I needed clothes and you clothed me”
We live in such a world of excess and waste. I won’t be the first to deny it. On a recent trip that lasted 5 days I brought along 7 pairs of shoes because I “needed” each pair. Again, we have so many opportunities. Agencies such as the Goodwill, the Cancer Federation and the American Heart Association all have clothing drives. This is such an easy one to fulfill, let us take this time of Lent to truly simplify our lives… and our closets.
“I was sick and you looked after me”
When I went off to college one of the worst experiences I had, was finally getting run down with the flu and having to take care of myself instead of having my mother look after me and force-feed me chicken soup and water. Again, we can definitely be noble and volunteer at a clinic, participate in a blood drive and become organ donors. We can also remember that looking after the sick can include taking a meal to a sick friend, sitting down and truly listening to a friend who is going through insurmountable challenges in their life, or simply praying for someone who is ill or lost in their spiritual life.
Christ does not ask us to take on more than we can handle! It does NOT say “I was sick and you HEALED me” Christ is not asking us to save everyone we encounter. Christ is asking us to simply look after and care for them.
In some of the hardest cases, this may just mean prayer that the person get better or find their way.
In the most difficult cases, this may mean praying for God’s will and His will alone.
“I was in prison and you visited me”
This one happens to hit home because I am personally aware of a number of people I have known who are in prison. There is something about those in prison not being anonymous that creates an amount of compassion that was unimaginable before.
People who are in prison because they committed a crime fell away from Christ and need our prayers. In many cases they are very lonely and depressed. We also know that our system is not perfect and there are some in prison who are there without reason. A visit, a letter and a prayer are all ways to help those who are carrying that cross.
We may know individuals who are in their own prisons. Due to the circumstances of their life they may feel trapped and tied down. We must also be sure to reach out to them as friends, listen patiently and offer our prayers to God for them.
Again!!! Christ does not say, “I was in prison and you FREED me” he says, “you visited me” We are not called to do the extraordinary! We are only called to show love and compassion to everyone around us.
May we at the Awesome Judgement of Christ, be able to answer numbered with the Sheep that we saw Christ in all people and served Him who is our Maker and Creator.