Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,
" Christ, King of the Universe - the moment of ultimate Healing "
Saint Matthew 25, the verses 31-46
Just before we start...
The Reading of the Holy Gospel for this Sunday traditionally carries the title " The last Judgement".
This well known story carries a number of elements, which raises questions in me and perhaps in you? - a certain adversion.
First of all the theme of the end of days is perhaps not an enthousiastic actual element in my Faith.
And apart from that , there is this concern about the element of " judgement ". In a sense God is associated as a Super Accountant, who makes up the ultimate balance, calculates it according to stonehard principles " reward according to works" and hands out a report, which cannot be followed by another one.
On top of it all , the king in this story is a top judge, who, without turning back, pronounces judgement, which even a top solicitor cannot tackle with.
My annoyance is increased through the seperation of the sheep and the rams. Spontaniously a question comes up:" Which group will I be part of ?"
On which side will I then end up? And spontaniously I would react again: " not on any side really, perhaps somewhere in between."
Unfortunately there does not exist a middle of the road in the story: You are either sheep or ram.I am not just a sheep or a ram, just the same as in life, I am not a pure yes or not, or strong or weak. The human condition is marked by a split: division,strife and brokenness.
How can I avoid that the text does not immediately comes as a closed book, but can , on the contrary, offer perspective.What does appear to be positive to me in the story? What does suprise me ? In which way can I read the text , so that it becomes sense to me and increases my Faith? Let us then listen to the Holy Gospel with an open ear , living in the hope to be surprised in the end.
"The Judgement of the Son of Man"
When the Son of Man returns, crowned in Glory and surrounded by all the Angels, then He will sit on the throne of His Glory. All the nations will be brought in front of Him and He will seperate them, the same way as the Shepherd sperates the sheep from the rams. The sheep He will place on His right hand and the rams He will place on His left hand. The the King will say to those on His right hand:" Come , Blessed people of My Father, take possession of the Kingdom, that is ready for from the beginning of creation. Because when I was hungry and you have fed me, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink.
I was a stranger and you have given me hospitality. I was naked and you have clothed me. I was sick and you have looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit Me. Then the rightious will give Him a reply:" Lord, when did we see You hungry and gave You feed, or thirsty and we gave You something to drink.
When have we seen You as a stranger and invited You in, or naked and did we dress You? When have we seen You sick or being in prison and have visited You?
The King will give them a reply:" I assure you, everything which you you have done for one of My lesser brothers, you have done for me!"
The He will address those, who are standing on His left hand and He will say to them:" Go away from me, you are dammed, to the eternal fire, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.
Because I was hungry you have not fed Me. I was thursty and You did not give me anything to drink. I was a stranger
and you did not offer Me any hospitality. I was naked and you did not cloth Me. I was sick and in prison and you did not bother to visit me.
Then their response would also be :" Lord, when have we seen you hungry or thursday or as a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and have not given You any assistance?"Than He shall answer them:" I assure you , everything you have not done for one of the lesser brothers, you have not dont it for me." They will to their eternal punishment , but the rightious to eternal life.
"The last judgement .. or The moment of ultimate healing"
In this story of the Holy Gospel there were two pronouncements, which struck me and made me think further: everytime in relation to one of both the players in the story.
First there is the human being - sheep or ram: this does not play a role here - whose input is restricted and the same time has some urgency: to the utmost surprise is the first word then comes up in him or her : WHEN?"
When did we see You naked and have clothed You? When were You in prision and when did we not look after you?. This ultimate suprise expressed in this human question and also repeadly, I can follow and and understand and I recognize myself.
As human beings we have a life to live , we set priorities for ourselves ( our work, our family, our involvement in society ) We sometimes double up in what we do, we sometimes dont focus on a better purpose of doing things , sometimes we deviate and often we get lost. We seldom say 100% yes or no . Sometimes we see only clearly temporarily and completes part of this pilgrimage " with closed eyes " . The WHEN question really makes him or her a human being.
A God, Who connects Himselfs with the devided human beings , does , according to my feeling not work as sharpe Judge.
Apart from the human with his or her question " WHEN" , there is also the story of the King with His very clear pronouncement " If you have done this for one of the lesser brothers, then you have also done this for Me. In this clear speech I do hear two things:
First he says to us human beings: I take you seriously. What you do, how you live , is effectively important , it makes a difference to me.
And in conjunction He says implicitly: my choice is clear. What matters to me in this world is the injustice, the poor , the desolates. They prefer preferential treatment. This King identifies Himself much more with that group, because He had been subject to unjustice, He had been poor, He had been rejected.
And then on the last day, is the end of our fundamental condition of striving, falling, rising, strenght, shortcomings, engagement, loss, being driven - everything that is human - to stand finally before God in what we traditionally call " The last judgement"'
A question I ask myself is to how we should understand this meeting. If we regard the ultimate meeting as an is an account of profit and loss within the history of our small human life, then judgement will follow fairly quickly. Is that really the context of God's handling to man? Is God only occupied with a simplified process relating to each individual human bneing ?
But dont we know our God as someone, Who includes man and human beings and gives them a part in the continuing story of the Creation? To give them
the change to realize the possibilities of the new creation, even taking the risk that something goes wrong or somone interferes?
Dont we know our God as someone , Who always says "yes" to the devided people as we are , to the people, who only see in part ?
This ultimate meeting with God , lets say " the last judgement" is something in which we can read the whole story of God with man, from the very beginning , the creation and not only from the latter part. In this great story of the creation, we we perhaps small , but also participants ,which cannot be missed.
In our lives, in our striving for a better world , our anticipation rests on the final creation of " the new heaven and the new earth".
In the growing process, God takes our participation very seriously. The final completion does not rest with us: we live in the promise that this
completion will be given to us freely.
May we then from this perspective look upon this meeting as "being united", rather that a meeting in which one is being rejected, as a moment of healing rather then a moment of judgement, as a moment of completion , rather than an account to be settled, as a moment of joy, rather than a moment of fear?
This perspective of the finaly completion works in the interim time in which we live with more strenght and desire then the perspective of judgement and settlement of account.
"Just as a deer is longing for the living water,
make us long for the day that we
at the moment still devided, may gather in Your Holy City,
united in You , completed in You , in all Eternity with You.
By using these words, let us in full assurance of trust and faith to the ultimate meeting with our God, towards to the final healing, which is awaiting us.
Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne