Whether we admit it or not, we all want to know what heaven is going to be like, and we hope we “get in” so we can have something to look forward to when we die. On the Third Sunday of the Triodion, known as Judgment Sunday, we hear an answer from Christ Himself, this time without parables. He speaks directly about the future judgment.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25.31-32) In the Kingdom of Heaven there will be a great division, driven not by what dogma the people declare, but by what life they live. But the story of judgment in the Gospel is not really about feeding the poor and visiting the sick, although that definitely plays a role in our salvation. It will be about HOW we see the people we feed and HOW we see the people we visit in the hospital.
And those whom God has declared righteous will say to Him, “'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?” (Matthew 25.37) And those whom God has declared unrighteous will say to Him, “'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?” (Matthew 25.44)
In both cases they were willing to serve God, but only the righteous were able to see those in need with the same eyes they saw God. Only the righteous were able to see those in need as being worthy of love and assistance. The others were willing to help Christ if they saw Him in need, but not others. Christ said, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.” (Matthew 25.45)
Their inability to see others the way Christ sees them, as created in His image, became their condemnation, and it can become our condemnation. In the end, it won’t matter what creed we recite on Sunday. Nor will it matter how many times we bow and cross ourselves. If we are not able to see others with the eyes of Christ, we will be unrighteous. That’s the bad news….
The Good News…..there’s always good news…..is that it is not too late to change the way we see others in need. Each person we encounter, whether rich or poor, is created in the image of God, and deserves our love and respect. When we are willing to assist them - feeding them when they are hungry, clothing them when they are naked, etc - we are kneading our hearts in order that we are able to see Christ in them. Once we can see Christ in the faces of each person we encounter, then we will hear the words of Christ, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25.34)