My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
Today on this third of the four pre-Lenten Sundays, the Church calls us to consider the Second Coming of our Lord and the Final Judgment.
On that day, before the throne of the Just Judge all creatures in heaven and on earth will stand, and before all of them shall all deeds be made known, all secrets shall be laid open; we will all see one another’s works.
As today’s Holy Gospel tells us: Before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another; as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
The Lord separates them without requiring the testimony of anyone else, inasmuch as He is Himself both witness and Judge.
He puts the blessed at His right hand, delivering them from fear and liberating them from conflict, saying unto them, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” What a joyous pronunciation!
In our Lord’s retelling of the lives of the bless, we see an enumeration of corporal works of mercy: “For I was hungry, and you gave Me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in: naked, and you covered Me: sick, and you visited Me: I was in prison, and you came to Me.”
This is not to say that these are the only deeds which are to be examined by the Just Judge. The Lord will, indeed, examine all the deeds, words and thoughts of all men, as He Himself told His disciples.
Here however, the Lord speaks solely of charity, wishing to show that this virtue is required above all. The strength of one’s supernatural love of God appears in one’s charity towards the poor, kindness to one’s neighbour, and compassion for all. Nothing so moves God’s love for us as our love of neighbour.
Our Lord directs us to show love for our fellow men, inasmuch as we ourselves will in the day of judgment need the love of the just Judge Himself for man. And His verdict will be just: mercy for the merciful, but no mercy for the merciless.
As the Gospel attests: Then He shall say to them also that shall be on His left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave Me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave Me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took Me not in: naked, and you covered Me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit Me.
A terrible thing it is to persevere in sin, my friends, but most terrible it is to be unmerciful! For he who is righteous and merciful is an heir of the kingdom, since he put into practice charity – supernatural love – the supreme virtue. But he who is unmerciful is sent into perdition, since he possessed hatred, the very opposite of love.
He who is merciful is on that very account like God, but he who is unmerciful makes of himself a disciple of the demons; therefore, the Lord sends the unmerciful on His left hand into the fire which He prepared for the devil and his angels. The cursed are condemned by their own deeds, because those who have condemned themselves do so for the lack of the most necessary virtue, charity, which is the bond of perfection.
For everyone who possesses much and does not practice charity is as a robber and a usurer. Whatever abundance a person has beyond what he may need, he steals it from the needy by not sharing it with them. If the rich employed their abundance for the common good of all, there would never be anyone in need; but insofar as the miserly have locked it all up and kept it for themselves, the poor are in need.
Therefore, the unmerciful are truly robbers also, and, by not giving to the poor, they injure all those for whom they could have provided. If, then, those who do not use their own property to practice charity incur such condemnation, how much heavier will be the sentence passed on those who seize what belongs to others, who get rich through injustice and oppression of the poor!
My friends, let us prepare ourselves to go into the presence of the Judge with confession, with heartfelt repentance and amendment of life. Let us please our Lord with generosity and alms for the poor. Let us feed the hungry, that we may be fed from the Master’s table. Let us give drink to the thirsty, that we may come to rest by the waters of tranquility. Let us take into our homes the harborless, and let us clothe the naked, that we may come to dwell in God’s heavenly abode, in the delight of paradise forever. Let us visit the sick, that the Lord may visit and heal our infirmities. Let us go to those who are in prison, that we may be freed from the prison and punishment of sin. To those who require material help let us supply what they need, as much as is possible. To those who are spiritually hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick or in prison, let us supply their spiritual needs.
My friends, let us give in many and various ways, by word and by deed, that we may be saved from the lot of those at the left hand of our Lord; that we may escape the terrible and dread judgement; that we may be numbered among the saints; and that we may be counted worthy to hear that blessed voice which calls the blessed of the Father into the hallowed and eternal kingdom of heaven.