The sermon delivered on Sunday of the Last Judgment, Feb. 19, based on the Gospel reading Matthew 25:31-46.
In these preparatory weeks before Great Lent, we have been exploring the theme of repentance. We prepare for Lent with repentance, so that we could spend this period of fasting gaining spiritual benefits.
Today is called Sunday of the Last Judgment. The Church offers us to contemplate the event that we will all face during the Second Coming of Christ, when everyone will be judged according to his or her deeds.
In today’s Gospel reading Christ describes to us how this Last Judgment is going to happen. We will be put before the fact, the verdict will be given to us, and we won’t have time to defend ourselves. Some will go to the right and inherit the Kingdom of God, and some will go to the left, to eternal punishment in hell.
The Gospel is very clear that the time to defend ourselves, to make our case, is now, today. What is the connection between repentance and the Last Judgment and today’s reading? Part of repentance is love for others. As Christ says, when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, in short – express love, we do those things to Him.
As we prepare for the season of fasting, the Church very wisely gives us the opportunity to fast and to learn to love others. Very often we become obsessed with food as Lent approaches.
Should we fast? How should we fast? If I drink milk is God going to strike me down? What is the point of this Lent anyway? These and other similar questions run through our head, but if we only concentrate on abstaining from certain foods, then we will not fast, we will observe a diet, but not fast.
Christ, through His Church, gives us Lent not only to exercise sobriety and self-control, but to exercise love for others as well. Our diet during Lent should be very simple, so that the money that we would otherwise have spent on more elaborate foods, we can now use to feed the hungry. Instead of buying another pair of shoes, which can’t fit in our closet, we have an opportunity to buy shoes for those who can’t afford it.
The idea is simple, by abstaining from things that we usually indulge in, we free up some extra resources, which in turn we can use to help others. We deprive ourselves to have more to give to others. And if one of us, through self-deprivation can help the life of another person, imagine what our whole community could do, if we all observe fast this way?
Christ today reminds us that we will be judged by our love – real, practical love – a love that is manifest in deeds and in sacrifices. And as Christ loved us by self-depriving Himself, by sacrificing Himself, in His love for us, to save us, so will He accept our self-deprivation and sacrifice done with love for others, and will say, at the Last Judgment, “Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” Amen.