Today, with our celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, we bring the liturgical year to a close. The Gospel account for today, the parable of the Judgment of the Nations, is a very haunting one. In reality, it is an excellent resource to use for an examination of conscience to see how well we are living out our discipleship.
The vision of the great judgment is the prophetic climax of Jesus’ discourse on the end times. The parables we have heard over the previous weeks built up to this event by warning disciples to be prepared for the return of the Lord Jesus in glory. Now we see what will happen when he arrives.
Jesus will “repay everyone according to their conduct.” (Matthew 16:27). Jesus tells us this will entail a judgment of our words, our thoughts, our actions, our willingness to forgive others, and our commitment to works of mercy.
The verdict of the king is that those on his right are blessed by the Lord and are the beneficiaries of his kingdom. They are the ones who have shown themselves to be children of the Father, therefore, heirs of his heavenly estate.
Those on the right are the ones who have led lives of generosity and compassion toward others. They supplied basic human needs to the hungry and thirsty. They took in the stranger, put clothes on the naked, sat at the bedside of the sick, and gave comfort to those in prison. It was through their serving of their fellow human beings by these acts of kindness and mercy that secured them a place in the Father’s House.
After those who are on the right hear the words of Jesus, “whatsoever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters you did for me,” he turns to those on his left. Unlike the righteous who are welcomed into the embrace of the Father, the ones on the left are told, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
The principal crimes of those on the left are sins of omission. It was their unwillingness, their complacency to serve the Lord through a life of serving others that earns them this punishment. They looked the other way and failed to show kindness to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner. Many opportunities were offered them during their lifetimes but their self-centeredness and pride got in the way.
The most important thing about this parable is for us to acknowledge that each and every day, the Lord comes to us under different disguises to see how we will respond to his needs. Let us not fail to see him and serve him in our sisters and brothers, so that when the time comes we will hear those beautiful words, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
— Fr. Dennis, Nov. 26, 2017