Faithful Mother that she is, our blessed Church has been preparing us for the coming season of the Great Fast. Certain that we are serious and sincere about saving our souls, profound examples from God's revelation to us in Scripture are being set before our eyes. We heard about the Publican and Pharisee as the former repented of sin and received gracious forgiveness. Following in sequence, we read about the overwhelmingly loving and forgiving Father who is so absolutely delighted in soul that his long lost son returns home, that a great festival of celebration is planned in his honor. All this preparation was obviously meant to stir our souls, to break up just like a steel plow the hardness of our hearts and souls that the blossom of repentance might gradually grow during the Great Fast.
It is entirely possible that some may not have been affected or touched by these positive lessons. Perhaps we cannot see ourselves in the portrayals made by the Lord with these parables. If we have felt left out, our Lord becomes all-inclusive. The ultimate scene is created for us. No one is left out; no one can feel he is not a participant; not one soul in creation is forgotten. Literally in today's teaching, the democracy, the all equal inclusiveness of the Church is demonstrated in the sight of our God.
It is interesting that in the life of the early Church, Roman rulers were fond of watching terrible worldly ghastly spectacles in the amphitheaters where Christians were murdered and martyred, making for sport and entertainment of the populace. One of the early Fathers of the Church, Tertullian in north Africa addressed his persecutors, saying "You are fond of spectacles! Expect the greatest and most enduring of them all, the last, and eternal final judgment of the universe!" Indeed, perhaps surpassing all we have heard of and been told about, perhaps even from what we have witnessed and seen, the Last Judgment will be the ultimate spectacle and the certainty of its approach should move us into a spirit of repentance for our sinfulness.
Our God has put man's fate in very clear language. The apostle teaches us, "It is appointed for man to die once and after this the judgment." The Lord makes no bones about our accountability and He does spend time describing for whatever good it will do, the circumstances under which we will be made accountable for all our actions and inactions. At his first appearance among us in the manger in Bethlehem of Judea, He reveals himself as an innocent Infant, adorned with humility. Today He says his coming at the end of the age, at the very end of the created world, He will be surrounded by an ethereal glory, with all the angelic powers singing his praise. At the trumpet blow, the dead shall rise from their graves. What a
Just as dramatically as a farmer divides his sheep from the goats, so our God will form us into two groups. Those on his right He addresses, "Come, blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Then He goes on to explain why those selected for eternal glory, "I was hungry ...I was thirsty ...I was a stranger ...I was naked ...I was sick ...I was in prison ... and you cared for me and helped me." Astounded, the righteous respond, "Lord, when did we see you hungry, sick, thirsty ... and helped you? And the Lord's answer smacks of definitive finality and seriousness, "...inasmuch as you did it even to the least of my brethren, you did it to me."
And of course, Christ in justice goes to the left to tell them, "Depart from me, accursed ones, into everlasting fire. For I was hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, in prison ... and you did not help me." They loudly, not so meekly protest insisting they never saw the Lord period, never mind under any of the vastly enumerated circumstances. Then Christ runs in their direction but once and profoundly announces "...inasmuch as you did not do it even for one of the least of my brethren, you did not do any good for me." Forthrightly the final verdict falls from august lips, "...these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal."
There you have it. Regardless what others may say, there shall be a final judgment that includes all of created mankind, believers and non-believers alike. This judgment will be solely based on the law of enduring love. We will then recall our Lord teaching about the greatest of commandments when He said, "You shall love the Lord your God with your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength ... and your neighbor as yourself."Finally, we see we die but once, must rest until He comes and then if called by righteousness to eternal life, shall live in the glory of paradise forever with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.