Cheating at the Last Judgement?

Homily 397 – 36th after Pentecost (Last Judgement)
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
February 23, 2020
Epistle: (140) – 1 Corinthians 8:8-9:2
Gospel: (106) – Matthew 25:31-46

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

Think back, if you will, to the last test or exam you took.

Regardless of what it was – wouldn’t it have been easier if you had the answer key in front of you?

That’s what Christ gives to us today. The key – the right answers – to the Test, which will be graded at the Last Judgement.

First, and most importantly to me, it will not end up as a conscious action on our part.

The ones who did nothing – the condemned ones – didn’t see Christ, and so they didn’t do anything.

To these, activity was a transaction, designed to obtain favor or benefit. The poor, the homeless, the sick – they can’t offer anything, and so to them, nothing was offered.

When the accusation is made – when Jesus was hungry, or naked, or sick, or in prison, you did nothing. The response is “Well, Jesus, I never saw you naked or sick or in prison, so you can’t hold that against me.”

They are, in effect, trying to get off on a technicality. Was that person Jesus? No! So how can I be accountable for taking care of Jesus when the person I encountered was anything BUT Jesus?

In fact, the opposite of Jesus! They weren’t holy, they weren’t churchgoers, they weren’t even sober most of the time.

They most definitely weren’t Jesus. You aren’t referring to me, Jesus, because I never saw you.

The ones who did something – the sanctified, the saved – didn’t see Christ either.

But they did something.

Didn’t matter who they were assisting. The people, the poor, the sick, the hungry and homeless, were people. Humans. Worthy of respect.

Worthy of seeing the image of God in them.

So why did this second group, this active group, do something when the others did not?

Basically, because they recognized that Christ had done that for them. Christ did that for me.

Undeserving as I was, Christ determined to become human – to become me – and to experience everything I experienced. Including death itself.

So that in Him, I might experience a new birth, that I might experience life as it was intended to be from the beginning.

But still – helping others isn’t a terribly logical step from Christ helping us. Christ helped me, so I should help others – that doesn’t necessarily make sense.

Because, beloved, the Kingdom doesn’t rely on logic – it rests on Love.

Christ loves us – unworthy as we are – and dwells in us. All of us, to one degree or another.

Some struggle against it, some embrace it, some – me – do both. And through this struggle, we experience the Love and Grace of our Creator.

Seeing that love poured forth on us, and knowing our own depravity, we cannot look at others and say “Well, they deserve worse.” Because we ALL deserve worse.

No, they don’t deserve worse. They still have within them the image of God, the person of Christ. The presence of the Holy Spirit.

That is what we should see when we look at others. We see Christ. We see his mother, our mother.

And by the way, that will be an enormous help to us as well. It is difficult for us to take advantage of a person when we see them as Christ. It is difficult for us to indulge in self-gratifying fantasy when the person in our fantasy is Christ, or his mother.

And in seeing Christ in the other person, we see our Redeemer – our Deliverer – our Creator. In them – in their face.

And it is that person who saved us – because that person is Christ. Our love for our Savior, who loves us unconditionally, pours out to the person we see – because we see Christ. In everyone.

So, the answer key is out there for us to see. And it is possible for us to train ourselves to see Christ in others. Great Lent is sometimes called the school of repentance – because it begins the process of removing our myopic focus on ourselves.

And begins to reorient – that is, repent – back to Christ our Master and Lord. And when our Love is no longer directed inward, toward ourselves, it has to go somewhere.

It goes to others – the people around us, who are all the image, the person, of Christ who saved us.

The key to the last Judgement, my friends, is nothing else but Love itself. We will be evaluated on our love, demonstrated through our care for others, giving to them what we would give to Christ if He were before us physically.

That is the Law and the Prophets. To love God in everything, every little bit of effort we exert – and to see God in everyone we encounter.

Do this – and find the joy of the Kingdom which is in our midst.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!