As we continue our Triodion journey of preparing our mindset for Great Lent, the Church offers to us, Judgment Sunday. Today’s Gospel lesson, one of the more popular social justice lessons from the Holy Scriptures, reminds us that judgment is coming to everyone. That much we can all agree on, but what happens after the judgment might be another story.
In the Gospel for today found in Matthew 25.31-46, we hear about the moment God will judge us. Sometimes we like to focus on the works listed in the reading; we must feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, and visit the sick and those in prison. On the surface we are tempted to limit our focus on the actions of those in the story, but we ignore the result.
When God welcomed the sheep, those who had lived according to God’s will, into heaven, they were amazed saying, “Lord, when did we see You…?” In other words, they didn’t realize they were even doing what God wanted them to do in their life. They were confused to find themselves in heaven as if to say, “What do you mean God? We never helped You. What did we do that gave us the great gift of heaven?”
On the other hand, the goats were equally confused when they found themselves condemned to hell. “What do you mean we didn’t get into heaven 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? There must be some mistake!” (adapted from Matthew 25.44)
We all walk the journey of life with our own image of what heaven will look like, and how God will judge. If we allow the Church, which has been guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit, to open our eyes, we might be surprised what is waiting for us. We might be surprised to find out that Heaven isn’t about us at all, but about God. We might find out that Heaven is not so much a place that we earn entrance into by doing good things, but a way of experiencing God’s love.
The life that God is calling us to, isn’t a life of social justice, but a life of divine love. Social justice is a natural consequence when we love, but must never be our purpose. If we think merely helping the poor in some sort of obligatory fashion is what God desires, then we will find ourselves just as shocked as the goats in today’s Gospel lesson.