As we get older. we tend to think more about what people will think of us when we are dead. Did we do what we should have done? Or did we do what we shouldn’t have done? The Ten Commandments would have been the usual guide.
Even more important than worrying about what people will think of us, we should be more concerned about how Jesus will judge us at the time of death.
The Gospel for the feast of Christ the King (Matt. 25:31-46) treats of judgement. It is appropriate because the feast of Christ the King comes at the end of the church’s calendar year so there is a sense of finality about the reading. Consequently, judgement after death becomes a focal point for serious reflection. In fact, this Gospel reading sums up rather well one of Jesus’ principal teachings, namely, how to deal with the marginalized of society.
Basically, this is what the Gospel tells us. Jesus is sitting on a throne in all his glory, much like a king, ready to make judgement on people. Some he will place on his right, and others he will place on his left.
To those in his right he will say: 1)-“I was hungry and you fed me”; 2)-“I was thirsty and you gave me to drink”; 3)-“I was a stranger and you gave me hospitality”; 4)-“I was naked and you clothed me”; 5)-“I was sick and you took care of me”; 6)-“I was in prison and you visited me.”
Then those on the right will ask, “Lord, when did we do these things to you?” And the answer will come back loudly and clearly, “As long as you have done this to one of the least of these who are members of my family you have done it to me.”
And to those on the left who have not done the above corporal works of mercy, Jesus will say, “Depart from me into the eternal fire!” Now that is the judgement that we can expect after we die.
What can we make out of this Gospel reading? First of all, Jesus is identifying himself with the marginalized of society. Namely, the poor, the sick, the immigrant, and others who are “looked down” upon by society.
Secondly, because of this identification we would have to be very careful about our attitude toward the marginalized. How do we respond to people who come to us for help since they have no one else to assist them? The jobless? Those folks in rest homes who have no one to visit them? The immigrant? The poor people who are barely surviving?
If we have served these people, then we belong on the “right” of Jesus’ chair of judgement. If we have not served the marginalized, then we shall be on the “left.” We know what judgement happens to both groups when they die. The same will be true of us. Who knows when or where we will encounter Jesus?