People will be justified on the Day of Judgment only by love to a neighbour and humility
(The word about the Day of Judgment)
The Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Celebrating Sunday today, we continue getting prepared for the forthcoming Lent. The Church called this week the meat prohibited week, for today we stop eating meat; and the week of the Day of Judgment because today's Gospel is dedicated to the Day of Judgment. We reminisce this great, most important for everyone event today.
We should take a good look with all our attention at the narration of the Gospel and, first of all, to note for ourselves, that the words about the Day of Judgment are said by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is entitled by the Father to judge all the creatures. The future Judge, Who will be the Head of that Awesome Court, is speaking. The final decision will be made and the final fate of each person will be determined on that Day. The important question for all the members of the Christ's Church arises in connection with this narration: who will be tried on the Day of Judgment?
" When the Son of Man comes in His glory " why is it said here the Son of Man? Because the Lord will come in His resurrected flesh, in which He ascended into Heaven and sat at the right hand of the Father. He ascended the entire human essence to such altitude that it became equated with the Father. In that glorious flesh the Lord will return. In that glorious flesh He will judge the entire human race.
" And all the holy Angels with Him" the sight will be inexpressibly tremendous. People, for the first time will see, at last, not just one Angel (many of us do not see even one of Them for entire life), but myriad's of Angels and holy people, i.e. the members of the Christ's Church, whose holy souls will come along with the Lord. The bodies of the holy people will be resurrected and undergo a change by the action of the Divine Grace. Their former bodies will be not just raised from the dead in the way they were, but will be altered in accordance with the quality of their spiritual state. These bodies will ascend toward the lord, toward their own souls and link up with them in the Sky. Then holy people will go back to the earth in their new bodies.
That is the fate of the true members of the Church only, who will remain in the Church till the end of their life and leave this world being in the Church. The Christ's Church, the Bride of Him, having neither a stain nor a vice, as Apostle Paul said, is not judged. She cannot be on trial. She is beyond jurisdiction because the great Divine Grace, which deletes all the sins, all the vices from every member of the Church, already consecrated Her. Therefore that is a great advantage to be a member of the Church. That is a great fortune to be a member of the Church. For the Church is a new form of natural direct communication with the God, a new form of life with the God and in the God. We are called for this. We should treasure the Church. We should understand that it is the great blessing, the great form of life, brought by the God, the very special form of life. And we, the Christians, are the ones, chosen by the God for this life.
Our entire life should be inspired by the Church, the members of which we should be till the end of our life to avoid standing trial on the Day of Judgment and to come along with the Holy Angels and holy people to judge the other human beings. The Scripture tells us that the Apostles will try the 12 tribes of Israel. So how can we be tried and stood nearby defendants if we, the true Christians (certainly if we save the Church membership), shall judge the demons, according to Apostle Paul? Our ignorance only can accept such a thought that defendants will judge someone. It's difficult even to imagine a more ridiculous idea. Therefore that is so important to be in the Church. Any sin, even the slightest sinful thought can remove us from the Church. Consequently a priest, who has a power to remit or to retain sins, given him by the God, pronounces, reading the resolving prayer on behalf of the Church: I join this repenting soul back to the Church.
I.e. a soul joins the Church again, because a soul dropped out of the Church due to a sin. There is the constant struggle of people, who have already become the believers, for safekeeping themselves in the Church. A sin pushes a soul out from the Church, but a soul comes back again in repentance, telling to a sin: no, I want to be in the Church. A passion pushes out a soul resists, clears the passion out, tells the sin "NO"! That is the lifelong struggle. And if death finds a human being in the Church, that person will not be a defendant, but will judge those, whom the God will entrust to him. This is the fundamental division of the true members of the Christ's Church and all other people. The other ones, i.e. people and demons will be tried.
From this understanding we pass to the narration that tells: " and before Him shall be gathered all the peoples". We shall notice that there is the prophecy here, that the majority of people will not join the Church in their earthly life for different reasons. They will be tried. If anybody, who is not a member of the Church, perished at once and utterly, there would be no sense even to judge him. Because the trial is an investigation that reveals who deserves to be shown mercy to and who does not. The Church is not judged, so all the other ones are tried. Why? To show mercy to some of them and bring them into the Heavenly Kingdom.
Therefore, being in the Church, we shall not praise ourselves to the skies over those ones, who are not the members of the Church for any reason, as, say, the babies, killed in mother's womb, whose number amounts the billions already for the entire history of humanity, non-baptized babies, etc. A huge amount of people has been outside of the Church in the dark of ignorance. Nevertheless, the Scripture shows us an example of long-suffering Job, who was not a member of the Old Testament Church and did not know either regulations, or laws, or divine services, but he lived with the God, following the call of his heart.
And the reverend father Serafim Sarovsky says, that the God saved the knowledge of the Holy Spirit among pagans and the Holy Spirit visited them as well. They even had the gift of distinguishing the devilish things from the Divine ones. There are many other cases too, as, for example, the Roman centurion who surprised the Lord by his belief, being not a member of the Old Testament Church. That is emphasized in the narration about the Roman centurion's belief that the Lord was surprised and praised him. The Lord has said, that many will come from the East and the West, from the North and the South and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven, i.e. with the true sons of Belief and the Christ's Church in the God's Kingdom. But the sons of the Kingdom (the members of the Church, who did not confirm their membership by their deeds and dropped out of the Church in the result) will be thrown outside, into the domains of hell. The Lord opposes the sons of the Kingdom, who deliberately became the believers in their lifetime, but have been in the Church just formally, with rescued people "from the East and the West, and the North and the South", i.e. from all the countries and all the nations.
How will these people be tried, if they were not in the Church, were not consecrated with the Sacraments, for the Sacraments are given only to the true members of the Church? Will the Lord judge if they were baptized or not; if they received communion or not or which faith they belonged to? Find that in the Scripture for me! I do not find that. I find something completely different, that the Lord will judge all people according to an absolutely different sign. And today's Gospel openly tells us about it: " He shall separate them one from another", i.e. all defendant people will be divided into two categories: " as a shepherd separates sheep from goats ". And then we will understand the words of the Gospel from John: "And the other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd"(John.10: 16). Remember?
" Them also I must bring " so it turns out that there are two folds. The first one the Church members follows the Lord already. They listen to Him, run away hearing a stranger's voice, but follow a true pastor. And all of a sudden the Lord says the words, non-comprehensible for majority of people, that there is another fold, " And the other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring". What is another fold and which sheep? These are all other people, foreseen by the God to pardon, who are not the members of the Church now, but who will join the Church on the Day of Judgment. That is why it is said concerning the detractors of the Holy Spirit, through the example of that terrible sin, that there is no mercy toward them either in this age, or in the future one. The Day of Judgment will have place in the future age and any sin can be forgiven then, except for reviling of the Holy Spirit.
The Christians, who have believed in the God, will be judged in accordance with the Gospel, and this trial will be more stringent. The closer a person is to the God in his earthly life, the more stringent trial is for him. The one, who is given a lot, will be recovered a lot. The one, who is knowing a lot, but not performing, will be beaten a lot, as it's said in the Scripture. Therefore many "christians" will go to the hell for the eternal pangs. Because they believed in the God, were named the Christians, but lived their lives worse than the pagans and the wicked ones, who never knew the God. And here the commandment " if he does not listen to the Church, let he will be as a pagan or publican to you" reveals itself from another side. What is the question here about? Who should we consider pagans and publicans among those ones who do not listen to the Church? Is the question here of those ones, who did not know the Church and did not join It? No. Why to consider them pagans and publican, if they are pagans anyway? No, it's said about the ones who were among the faithful ones; who had been faithful, had been ours and quit; and their withdrawal revealed that they had never been ours in reality! They were ours just in formal and hypocritical way. So we should have the same attitude toward our former brothers as we have toward pagans and publicans. We should not communicate with them, for they did not stand firm in the Church. The correct understanding of this matter helps to comprehend the other things, which the Lord uncovers in the Scripture or in the Church doctrine.
So, all people tried on the Day of Judgment, will be divided on two qualitatively different categories. The Lord calls them "the sheep" and "the goats". He places the sheep on the right hand of Him. In this case the indication " the right hand " has the same meaning as in the words: "righteous", "to be in the right ", "the right way". The left hand indicates that people went along the crooked, wrong ways.
What the basic commandment has been violated by these not church or former church people, standing on the left hand of the Lord? The Lord shows us that they violated the basic commandment of human life love.
Such an aspect of Love as love to a neighbour is taken here. Apostle John Theologian teachers us: "If anyone says, "I love the God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love the God, whom he has not seen." (1 John 4:20) Therefore that is difficult to talk about love to the God. He is invisible and that love is invisible. It is difficult to see that love in its displays. It is difficult to figure out in earthly life who really loves the God and who does not. But love to a neighbour can be daily and constantly testified.
"Then the King will say to those on His right, "Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."(Mat.25; 34)
What kingdom is the question about? It's about the kingdom of Love. It's about the kingdom where the Lord presents people, loving one another, with most harmonious relationships, because love is most important thing in our life. Everything else the feats, repentance, prayers, fighting against the sins, all the virtues taken together, are needed for one purpose to gain love. The Church membership and participation in Sacraments are needed as well just to quit being a sinner and achieve love. But we, the members of the Church, have an advantage in comparison with other people. We, the Christians, can receive the very special consecrating Grace of the Holy Spirit through the Church Sacraments, which can give us a great success in attaining the perfect love. And consequently the most horrible thing is to see hatred, spite, revenge and the other displays, which can be included into a category of condemnation of a neighbour, among the Christians.
That is impossible for a Christian to live by condemnation for he is a follower not of a devil, but Christ. And Christ is the embodiment of Love, Who went through crucifixion for the sake of Love. Consequently, if we do not show love to a neighbour, we sin particularly in comparison with pagans and other non-believers. Particularly! Because we know this commandment and requirement of the God very well: love your neighbour as much as you do yourself. We are aware, but we do not execute.
It will sure be more gratifying then for people, who being unaware of this commandment lived in accordance with their heart. They lived according to their human nature, in which the good is mixed with the evil, nevertheless have chosen to rely on the good side of their nature and acted out of love, out of active love. Not in their daydreaming, just sitting in an armchair and thinking how much they have supposedly loved everybody. No! They have performed the deeds of love. And they have testified by those actions that they are the ones, chosen by the God. Yes, they are the sheep from another fold, who haven't had clear comprehension and realization of the God's will, but they are the chosen ones, owing to their actions, and the Kingdom of Love is prepared for them as well. It's prepared for the sheep from the second fold, who will join the first one on the Day of Judgment.
The Lord uses the spiritual law here: if someone did the actions of love to his neighbour, he did them to Him. "For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me." The Lord testifies by these words that in our terrestrial life such things like starvation, cold, nakedness, prisons, illnesses and the other troubles are inevitable. These are the consequences of the human's fall. Do not seek to avoid that. There is no possibility to avoid that. Such an intention is an extreme delusion. And what does remain for us? We are all outcast by the God, we are all exiled from Paradise, are all in sufferings. What should we do? We should support one another out of the feeling of compassion, out of love to each other. And we should share what we have. The Lord talks here about very simple things. In fact that is so natural, even for animals, for the dumb cattle, to feed their baby, sometimes even to sacrifice their own life to save a cub. If it's hungry to feed it; if it's thirsty to give some drink; if it's cold to warm it up, if it's got into trap to help it to get freed.
Isn't it characteristic for people then? People, who have intellect, free will and conscience, given by the God, which is preserved despite a maze of sins and tells: act this way, instead of another one! That is why Apostle Paul says that pagans will be judged not according to the Gospel, but in accordance with conscience. For everybody has some thoughts, that justify their deeds, and the others ones that condemn their actions.
And this active _expression of love is most important to get to the Heavenly Kingdom, the Kingdom of Eternal Love. That is quite obvious that the Christians, who have remained in the Church, have it already. They could not be the members of the Church, if they had violated the commandment about love. They could not. We recollect here the words of Apostle Paul from his 1st Letter to Corinthians, from this Hymn of Love: "If I speak the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all the mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing."(1CÓr.13; 1-3) Because in the Heavenly Kingdom nobody will estimate what you have left or what you have burnt ourself or something else, but they will ask, what prompted you to do that? Have you acted out of love? For the spirit of Love will predominate there.
Consequently a person, who gains this attitude here, becomes suitable for the Heavenly Kingdom. He can be justified and placed there, for he will not rebel, will not envy or outrage there again, will not show his sinful passions or bring everything down to the rebellions that had place already with indignant angels and fallen human beings. That's over! Such things will never happen again! Therefore people, who do not attain active love to a neighbour, exclude themselves from the Book of Life and from eternal being in the Heavenly Kingdom. There is just no possibility to live with them together. The God has mercy on those ones, who are able to live in Eternity already, and cannot place them along with these disturbers of calmness, these proud, passionate people. Therefore they doom themselves to external being.
Revelation tells us about people, who belong to external being: "Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying."(Rev 22:15)
This category of people, listed in Revelation and by Apostle Paul, is among those ones who do not inherit the Heavenly Kingdom. If we read the appellations of these people with all our attention, we will realize that regardless of a kind of a sin, the very essence of each sin is dislike to the God and to a neighbour, hatred of the God and hatred of a neighbour. And every sin is based on pride. The basic core of people, who do not love the God, is pride, i.e. contamination from a devil, who is irreversible already. Therefore the major trait people should possess to inherit the eternal life is humility. We may think that it is not pointed out in the Scripture about the Day of Judgment. No, it is! That is directly indicated here, that active love is valuable only if it's originated from a meek heart, for if a heart is not meek, love cannot be true. For it is possible to practice charity out of proud heart, or visit a prison out of haughtiness, or drop in a hospital out of vanity. Not an external action is important on it's own, but the quality of a heart it's done from.
We read further: "Then righteous people who are these righteous people here? The canonized saints? No. These are people, who not being the members of the Church, not knowing the God's law, have performed the God's Truth, following their conscience. Therefore they are named righteous people. " will answer Him, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?" i.e. this answer shows their marvelous humility and wisdom.
They did their deeds of love, not even imagining that they were doing something great. That is very important. It was not a show or publication of imaginary virtues. It was a natural urge of a loving heart, what is really important for the God. Then the Lord, Whom they have seen for the first time on the Day of Judgment, will justify them for they humbly talk to Him: our God, we did not do anything good for you. They are honest people. They tell the truth. They did not do anything directly to the Lord: they did not pray at the temples, did not participate in the Sacraments, and did not donate anything to Him. That is why they say: we did nothing for You. Then the Lord continues: yes, but I have provided the special law for you, who are not aware of the God's Law. What law? "I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me."
The God has provided such spiritual law for the sake of salvation of the majority of people. He considers the good, done to a neighbour, to be the good, done to Him. But only the good, done out of humility, is treasured. For these people are not aware of their virtue, do not brag about it, are not vain and really do not understand, how could they do something good?
People, infected by pride, behave themselves in absolutely different way. "Then He will also say to those on the left, "Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger and you didn't take Me in; I was naked and you didn't clothe Me, sick and in prison and you didn't take care of Me."
"Then they too will answer", that is very important, that they heard the answer of justified and pardoned people already. It's an extreme insanity to contradict the Lord after everybody heard the humble answer of righteous people, who spoke in absolutely different way. They repeat the same words, having an absolutely different intention, aiming to self-justify themselves: "Lord, when did we see You hungry?" they say, what are you talking here about? Don't you understand something? Your accusation is unfair. Be horrified! What a pride to appear before the King of the kings, the God, the Judge on His Throne and try to contradict and accuse, being unjustifiably guilty! What madness of these people! What Heavenly Kingdom do they deserve? If they argue with the Lord on the Day of Judgment, what would they do with a human being, happened to be under his power? It's horrible even to think about.
"Or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?" Then will answer them, "I assure you: Whatever you DID NOT do for one of the least of these, you DID NOT do for Me either." i.e. I told you already, but you do not understand. I shall repeat again: those ones He points toward least people on His right they did, but you DID NOT. "And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
Let us take into our hearts the major thing, that the Gospel of Love and this description of the Day of Judgment teach us: the God is Love. All of his holy people, having this communion of Love, are in Love and pour out this Love, everybody to his own extent.
Love is that vital energy, that prompt creatures treat one another in the right, God-pleasing way; not performing a malicious will of demons, not following a call of passions to multiply sins, but according to the God's will, presenting one another with bliss. That is the only thing that the God demands from a person to make his return to Him possible.
He expiated the entire human race. He particularly chose His Bride-Church, consecrated by His Blood. Therefore we have the great fortune to be the members of this Church, which stands in the Truth unshakably, is a pillar and assertion of the Truth, has neither stain, nor vice. That is why we should constantly purify ourselves by repentance. That is why we should always remember our Heavenly Bridegroom Jesus Christ through the incessant, repentant and humble Jesus prayer. We should appeal to His Name with great love, reverence and humility. Not in the way: well, I have to appeal to Him, unfortunately, for He is stronger than me, so what to do... That is not Christianity. Jesus Christ is everything for us! First of all, He is our loving Father, the Benefactor, the Creator, the King, the Master and the Lord. We should love Him with all our soul, with all our mind, with all our strength, with all our thoughts and with all our heart. And out of this love we should appeal to His sweetest and most Holy Name!
All our life, the life of people, who are close to us, the entire eternity depend on Him. That a good dependence. That is a blissful dependence. And we should rejoice and make merry, that we are the Christians and know Him from the Scripture, from the teachings of the Holy Fathers. We should get to know Him personally as well in our feat so as to become reconciled to Him, to join Him; so that he could come to us and settle into us. For He loves us more than we can imagine. He wishes everyone to be rescued. But we should not judge other people. We should distinguish them: this one is mistaken; this one is in death; this one is in specific heresy; this one is in delusion; this one is schism; this one had dropped out of the Church and went to arbitrary gathering. This one is out of his mind; this one is a grave sinner. We should distinguish them to avoid following them, or becoming like them, or catching anything from them. But should not judge them. If the God entrust, the ones, chosen by Him, will judge them on the Day of Judgment. Before that Day we do not condemn.
The final fate of each person, even of an unmitigated villain, will be decided on the Day of Judgment. It will be determined only in accordance with two attributes, which are tightly connected with each other: humility and love grown on the basis of this humility. Active, practical love, shown throughout life by means of the deeds and actions, indicated by the Lord the actions that help to satisfy the most natural necessities of needy people. Because we expect people's help exactly in those matters we have a need of, whether we are sick, or in a dungeon, or starve, or thirst, or suffer from the cold most basic our needs are listed. That is quite obvious that help may be needed in other matters too, where we should render support and show our love as well. But the Lord specifies some of the most important needs that cannot be ignored, through satisfying which the active love is shown.
The Holy Fathers teach us, that all of their feats a repentance, life in a desert, keeping silence, etc. were necessary just for one purpose: to attain love. And some of the Reverend Fathers, the great fathers of the Church, told their disciples after they had spent some time in a desert: and now, children, let's go down to the world to verify ourselves, if we have attained love already. Because you can think, sitting in a monastic cell on your own, that you love everybody. Then you go down to the world and the first person to come along tells you: hey, the vagabonds and spongers are coming. You should check your feelings here: if you love this person or not. If you feel in your heart something like, who is he to talk to me like that? I've been living in a desert for many years, appealing to the God, and this man has no idea about anything!... That's all! If such a thought crossed your mind, woe to you! You gained nothing. And all of your fasts, good deeds, sleepless nights, starvation, countless prayers and the other your feats and virtues are vain. Everything is futile! Vainly!!! All of that serves the demons, instead of the God...
Because you do not earn the major thing the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit, and without It you can not attain love.
That is why if we say that the purpose of the Christian life is to amass the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit, we should understand what this amassing is for. That is not as simple as amassing money, i.e. earn money, accumulate them, put money into a safe and store. No! The comparison with money works to some extent, but we amass the Divine Grace not just to save it, but to become a new human being, resembling Christ, through this blessing. And Christ is Embodied Love. So we should embody our love by the means of our deeds, words and even thoughts. Therefore a mental battle and a victory in it leads us to the result that we do not accept any decayed, dirty, sinful, vindictive, mean thought against the ones nearby. We should never accept any of such thoughts if we really have love, but the thoughts of compassion, condescension to human's infirmity, love; wishing salvation and all the good things to any of the most wayward person. And a true repentance, leaning on a true self-cognition, leads a person to the knowledge that he is guilty, dead, is far away from the God, in a horrible delusion. And the entire human race is along with him in this terrible delusion and in the thrall of authority of the fierce tyrant devil.
Therefore we all, who live in sins, are unfortunate. We all are far away from the God and are doomed to death. Only the abundant God's mercy and His Love can rescue us. That is why we should, despite our infirmity start loving Him, leaning on His Love. For He had loved us before we even thought of it. He had believed in us before we believed in Him. Won't we live up to His trust in us? Or we exchange Him to "lentil pottage" of temporal, decayed, perishable, momentary pleasures? Wouldn't we be the madmen then? Shall we disregard His Great Love? Won't we give our love in return? Only love connects us with the ones who love us. That is the law. There is no other way to get connected with the God.
Everything else the repentance, praying are just the ways of attaining love. And then the connection with the God-Love occurs by means of love. Similar things link up only with similar ones. This unique energy of Divine Love connects us with the God and with other people, close to us, and then we hold firm in Life, in new, true, eternal Life. This is the most important thing we should learn from the narration of the Gospel.
Let the merciful Lord help each member of the Church save his Church membership, his being in the Church, remain written in the Book of the Life to avoid being defendant on the Day of Judgment, but to present there as a witness or a judge over the other ones. Let the God's Grace be with us in that. Amen.
Fr. Oleg Molenko
March 2, 2003, Toronto