Today marks the Sunday of the Last Judgment in the Orthodox Church. Often called Meat-Fare Sunday (as we begin our abstaining from animal products this week with meat only), it is the third Sunday using the Triodion (the liturgical book containing the prayers and hymns for the entire Lenten season leading up to Pascha).
“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 form another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. Then He will say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me. Then they will answer Him, saying, ‘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? Then He will answer them, saying, ‘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. And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
What is the criteria for the Last Judgment? What is the meaning of this parable? LOVE. It is imperative that we love any person that God places in our path during this earthly life. Not just our parents, children and spouse. We, as Christians, are called to care for all of society, every person, every walk of life. Christian love is the ability to see Christ in everyone we meet – YES, even those that do not show love to us. Even those that show us only contempt. Even those whose physical appearance, social status, and way of life does not match our own. For in each person we encounter, each relationship we have, is an opportunity to not only bring us close to that person, but to God Himself.
There are people who are hard to love or show love to. Whether it be our parent, brother, neighbor, or the politicians practicing ways of life in opposition to Christ. Whether it be a sister, a child, a cranky clerk at the store, or someone who has physically harmed you. Whether it be a spouse, a cousin, a beggar, or someone that has been responsible for the death of another. What of these? You know who they are. That person or persons that bring up anxiety and pain within your heart. What of these? These are the ones we need to pray for - for in prayer we are loving them. We are lifting them up to God. And in that prayer, we just may find other ways to show love to them - for not only are we lifting them up to God, we are lifting up ourselves to God. For in loving others, we are loving Christ.
Kondakion (Tone 1)
When You, O God, shall come to earth with glory,
All things shall tremble
And the river of fire shall flow before Your judgment seat;
The books shall be opened and the hidden things disclosed!
Then deliver me from the unquenchable fire,
And make me worthy to stand at Your right hand, righteous Judge
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