"Fate, debt and Christ", Sunday of the coming Judgment

Christ Pantokrator, first half of the 6th century,
Monastery of Saint Catherine of Sinai

Father Vassilios Argyriadis

In today's gospel passage we heard about how the world will be judged at the end of history. The Son of Man will come "in his glory" and all nations will be gathered before Him. And just as with His word He created everything in the world, so now, with His word He will separate the sheep from the goats. Just as the flock recognizes its shepherd and the shepherd knows his animals very well one by one, so the Son of man will be the Lord of all and everyone will now know and recognize Him.

The passage then speaks of God's judgment, describing a series of people who are forced. And this description is made four times in a row. The first time, the Son of man addresses those "on the right", the righteous, and praises them for their attitude towards the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. And the righteous respond with a question to the Son of man—"when shall we see you..."—and they too describe the same sequence of human suffering.

The dialogue of the Son of man with the "ex euonyms", the wrongdoers, has exactly the same characteristics. Two more times (one from the Lord and one from the people) reference is made to hunger, thirst, strangeness, nakedness, sickness and prison. Only here now, like a mirror, what was before on the right, is now on the left — the goats, the euonymous ones, failed to present themselves to the man who was forced each time. And this failure of theirs leads them away from God.

All these repetitions, all these mirrorings of the same thing are meant to remind us of a basic truth: humans—all humans—are leavened with need. Lack and need are the basic components of our existence, it is our very destiny. Of course, in the advanced Western societies we live in, our vital needs are not primary: no one may be missing a plate of food (and when it is missing, structures that can provide it are easily found). We don't run out of water, we're not naked cokes. But these same needs and lacks continue to plague our lives in a completely different form sometimes: for someone, the hunger of his life may be the lack of companionship; another may be thirsty for comfort; for another, prison may be his very to feel at home and a stranger in every environment where he mingles with people. In fact, disease, at the present time, is for the whole world the earliest image of the human condition. Lack and need are the common fate of us all.

On the other hand, our neighbors, the "least of our brothers", according to the glossary of today's passage, i.e. all our fellow human beings, even the most marginalized, constitute our debt and duty. "Love the Lord your God... this first commandment. And a second similitude , this: love your neighbor as yourself . " These are the words of the Lord in the Gospel according to Mark (12,29-31). And in the Gospel according to Luke, it clarifies that every person is near, regardless of origin, gender, religion, nationality, or any other social or economic status. Our permanent debt is to everyone next to us: the one who is hungry, the one who is thirsty, the one who is a stranger among strangers, the one who stands naked among people, the one who is sick or lives his life locked in prisons.

Consequently, when we hear in today's Gospel passage that reference is made to "one of the least of these my brothers", our mind naturally goes to the neighbor. And it is indeed so. But all these references in the Gospel passage to the sufferings and sufferings of people, let us understand that we ourselves are "little brothers" of Christ, because as we said, the common fate of all people is lack and need. In the face of the "brothers, the least" we can see our own face and the face of our neighbor. Our common fate and our common debt.

But today's passage also tells us something else: the Son of man is not only the external judge who made the world and now has come to judge it. But He is someone who also identified His own face with the face of every human being. "If you have harmed one of the least of these my brothers, you have harmed me . " Now in the face of the least brothers there is not only our face and the face of each neighbor, there is not only our common fate and our common debt, but the face of the Lord has also set there. He is the one who assumed our common destiny and makes possible the fulfillment of our common debt. He is the one who took on human flesh and was hungry like all of us, he was thirsty, he wandered as a baby in Egypt, he was threatened, he was expelled, he lived without "where to lay his head" (Matthew 8:19). It is he who tried the human condition in all its want and need, and carried its sickness to its extreme, the cross and death itself, to overturn it and make it Resurrection and life eternal. And so the human condition may have necessity as its destiny, but it is no longer a burden of necessity. Human deficiency became a vessel for the divine crew. Because Christ became a man, was crucified and resurrected, we can partake of His Body and Blood and let Christ live in us. And living together with Christ, our common lack becomes life and fullness. Our common debt, our openness to our brother's needs, becomes fulfilling, because "I am always strong in Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13). I can be for the other neighbor, because I have Christ for myself — one and the same with Him.

The least brother of today's gospel passage is a mystery. In his face there is my face, the face of my neighbor and the face of Christ — our destiny, the debt and Christ. In the approaching Lent we will again try to perceive something of this mystery, perhaps more to live it and less to understand it. We will intensify personal exercise (fasting and alertness to the needs of the brother). We will increase the time we devote to prayer, each according to his measures and capabilities. We will try with all this to give space within us to the mystery of Christ, in the hope that it will entitle us to feel our common destiny, not as a human deficiency but as a divine fullness. And perhaps this is how we begin to fulfill our debt to our neighbor, not only because we will see Christ in his face, but also because He will strengthen us "in our power to plead with them in all tribulation" (2 Cor. 1,5) .

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to know about new releases, offers and events!