The Last Judgement

In today’s Gospel Jesus gives us a different sort of teaching. Instead of speaking of Himself and the Kingdom obliquely or through Parables, He confronts us with a vision of the Last Judgement. This Glorious vision is of Him, the Son of Man, as King of all nations, for all nations will be judged, those we like, and those we do not like. All nations before the Throne of Glory are judged based on how they recognized the Image of God in the least of them.
Some will see the King as joy and bliss; others will see the King as judgement and condemnation. And the dividing line is “How did we treat others.”

And He divides the sheep from the goats, the righteous from the wicked. One thing to note is that neither the righteous nor the wicked are aware of who is which. The righteous question being considered righteous; the wicked question being considered wicked. The righteous are unaware that by ministering to the least of these, they ministered to the King.

He was: hungry, and they fed; thirsty and they gave drink; a foreigner, and they welcomed Him; naked, and they clothed Him; sick and imprisoned and they visited Him The righteous ministered to Him by ministering to the least of these. They didn’t know that by ministering to the Image of God in the least of these, that they ministered to God, the King. For God does not need food, drink, asylum, clothing, a physician, or liberty — but the least of those created in His Image do. Come ye blessed, inherit the Kingdom that was prepared for you from the foundation.

To the goats, the wicked He says: Depart you cursed ones. He does not curse them. They have cursed themselves. Depart to a place that was NOT prepared for you, but for the devil and his demons. The fire of punishment was not designed for you, but you have brought it upon yourself; you have chosen it.
They choose it by refusing to do all the things the righteous did.

Brothers and sisters, we live in a culture dominated by protestant calvinism. If you read social theory you will find that they have divided the poor into “deserving poor” and “undeserving poor”  But SS John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Ambrose of Milan will have nothing of this.

For most people, when they see someone in hunger, chronic illness, and the extremes of misfortune, do not even allow him a good reputation but judge his life by his troubles, and think that he is surely in such misery because of wickedness.  — St. John Chrysostom
Lift up and stretch out your hands, not to heaven but to the poor; for if you stretch out your hands to the poor, you have reached the summit of heaven. But if you lift up your hands in prayer without sharing with the poor, it is worth nothing . — St John Chrysostom
Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead. —  St John Chrysostom
If you see any one in affliction, ask no more questions. His being in affliction involves a just claim on your aid. For if when you see a beast of burden choking you raise him up, and do not curiously inquire whose he is, much more about a human being one ought not to be over-curious in enquiring whose he is. He is God’s, be he heathen or be he Jew; since even if he is an unbeliever, still he needs help. For if indeed you had been charged by God to investigate and to judge, well and good, but, as it is, the fact that he has fallen into misfortune is all you need to know. If you see him in affliction, do not say that he is wicked. For when a person is in calamity, and needs help, it is not right to say that he is wicked. For this is cruelty, inhumanity, and arrogance. — St. John Chrysostom
The rich are in possession of the goods of the poor, even if they have acquired them honestly or inherited them legally. — St. John Chrysostom
The rich seize common goods before others have the opportunity, then claim them as their own by right of preemption. For if we all took only what was necessary to satisfy our own needs, giving the rest to those who lack, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, and no one would be in need.—  St. Basil the Great
He who strips the clothed is to be called a thief. How should we name him who is able to dress the naked and doesn’t do it. — St. Basil the Great
The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. — St. Basil The Great
There is your brother, naked, crying, and you stand there confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering. — St. Ambrose of Milan
You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not just to the rich. —  St Ambrose
Feed him who is dying of hunger; if you have not fed him you have killed him. — St. Ambrose of Milan

I was hungry and you took my food away; I was thirsty and you gave my water to someone who paid you; I was a foreigner and you sent me back to the perils of the country I escaped, I was naked and you condemned my morality; I was sick and you made it impossible for me to see the physician; I was in prison and you forgot me.

Rather than take Jesus’ words to heart we try to find a way to justify our greed, our hard heartedness, our neglect, our theft of the resources that belong to all mankind.
In a week we will begin a time when we are asked by the Church to simplify our lives, to soften our hearts, to be generous with alms, to turn down the volume of our noisy world.

Brothers and sisters, listen. Our souls are on the line. Jesus taught us to pray that our debts be forgiven as we forgive our debtors — our debts, those things we should have done but didn’t. Jesus did not accuse the goat people of adultery or murder; He accused them of lack of mercy.
I would be guilty of not clothing you if I soft-peddled this. This is what our Lord expects of us. This is the criteria by which we are judged.

The Kingdom which was prepared for you from the beginning, the joy of all joys — or, the punishment that was not prepared for you but rather for the devil and his angels. Which will we decide? We must decide whether to let the medicine of these commandments be a healing for us. Or by not applying the medicine a fate which was never ours to begin with awaits.

But by our actions or inactions, we decide.

in-as-much

Guest Blog. Fr. Stephen Freeman: Mere Morality

Today I have invited Fr. Stephen Freeman to be my guest Blogger.
Mere Morality

What makes an action moral? I use the word to describe something done in an effort to conform to a rule, a law, or a principle. It is a matter of the will and a matter of effort. All societies require some form of moral behavior. If there were no such behavior, life would be unpredictable, unstable, and quite dangerous. Governments encourage some form of morality (it is the sole purpose of laws). Most religions also endorse a code or moral rule.

Having said all of that – I want to be clear that I do not suggest that people engage in immorality. However…

Morality is not the province of Christianity, nor is the Kingdom of God a matter of moral effort. I have written elsewhere that “Jesus did not die in order to make bad men good…He died in order to make dead men live.”

The work of the Holy Spirit in the human life involves the true transformation of the Person. We are not commanded to behave, but to become.

This same principle runs throughout the sacraments of the Church. And the pattern of the sacraments is the pattern of our salvation. Baptism is not a matter of behavior (mere obedience to a command). Baptism is a true union with Christ in His death and resurrection.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2Co 5:17)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. (Gal 6:15)

The waters of Baptism become the death and resurrection of Christ.

The Eucharist is not a new behavior for bread and wine, but a new reality is revealed: they become the true Body and Blood of Christ. We do not eat and drink as a moral act, or a memorial. We eat the true Body and drink the true Blood in order to live.

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. (Joh 6:53-55)

There is within our culture a constant pull towards a moral model. The demand that others conform to an external rule, and the drive to force the same on ourselves, is a distraction that draws us away from the truth of our lives. We fail in our repeated moral attempts and secretly upbraid ourselves. With others we become consumed by anger. And both are driven by the pool of shame that failure generates.

But the nature of our life-problem is not failure to behave correctly. Were there to be someone who always acted in a proper moral manner – they would still be as sick as everyone around them. The sinlessness of Christ does not describe His unfailing conformity to the Jewish Law. It is rather His utter integrity with the Father – He is one with the Father and nothing ever severs that relationship.

Moral performance does not secure our union with God.

Christ on the mount of Transfiguration is what the truly “moral” man looks like. Our goal is not conformity to a standard, but life from the dead.

We are able to make “moral” judgments. Societies legislate morality (for this is the sole concern of the law). The good order of a culture is largely measured by its general conformity to its moral code. But this conformity is not the goal of the Christian faith. We have something far greater in mind.

I have noted a tendency among some to treat the Church’s concern for the environment as a moral goal (which is entirely appropriate). But some have confused this moral goal as somehow of a piece with the true goal of the transfiguration of creation. If every scintilla of pollution ceased at this very moment and the climate stabilized for the remainder of our planet’s existence, nothing relevant to the Kingdom of God would have been established. For our goal is not a moral planet (expressed in our stewardship). The proclamation of the gospel is that God has a goal and a purpose in all creation that transcends every moral effort of humanity. The created will be united with the uncreated.  This will not be a measure of its environment but the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Some are troubled (I’ve noticed) when such statements are made, fearing that they lessen the moral demands for stewardship of the environment. That may be, though it is not my intent (and thus not the intent of properly stated theology). But the gift of God is inexorable – not depending on human action. That Christ makes bread to be His body is not therefore a moral demand for better baking (though we should present the finest work of human hands at His altar).

The transformation of creation is the promise of a good God in the face of all human failure and of a creation “made subject to futility.” None of us can predict what the outcome of human habitation of our planet will be. We may yet be so silenced that any comment from the Church on the topic will be unheard. The seas may turn into wormwood and the planet breathe poison as in the earliest days of its formation. I think it completely likely that the planet will reflect the bankruptcy of mankind in every way.

But the transformation will come. That is a gospel promise.

We shall be changed. Everything shall be changed. And that’s the moral of this story.

Fr. Stephen Freeman’s blog can be found at
http://glory2godforallthings.com/2014/07/14/mere-morality

Republished with permission of author