“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’” (vv. 37-39)

Matthew 25:31-46 Sunday 23 November 2014

Psalm: Psalm 95


Much art has been inspired by this story, with its graphic,visual imagery and apparently clear message. Every year over 4million people look at Michaelangelo's famous depiction fresco, The Last Judgement in the Vatican'sSistine Chapel. What message do they take away? A powerful,muscular Christ sealing the fate of men, women and children in amoment? A reassurance that 'being good' is all that matters andthat heaven is assured for those who are 'wonderful Christians'without ever naming the name of Christ?

It is a story that needs to be read as the culmination of 25chapters in which Matthew's Gospel has laid out the principles andpractice of a whole new way of life, a way of discipleship and lovewhich transforms the meaning and manner of life. Judgement is notformed on the basis of desultory social actions, but on whether thewhole of life has been devoted to receiving and giving thetransforming love of Christ. If it has, then the imperative to loveone's neighbour as oneself, and to pay particular attention to themarginalised will inevitably have led believers to feed the hungry,refresh the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, carefor the sick and visit the imprisoned. They will have done thesethings not as a conscious strategy to gain eternal life, but as anatural response to the love and renewal they have received. So,they may hardly even be aware of having done it and certainlyunaware that their actions had eternal consequences (verses 37-39).Others, the "goats" as this word-picture would have it, have gonethrough life with their eyes unopened to the presence and wonder ofGod all around, especially in the poor and needy. They may not havedeliberately chosen to ignore God, they just haven't noticed thepresence. "Were you there?"

The 'Reign of Christ', the theme explored during this comingweek of readings and notes, does not begin at the last judgement,but at the first response to the whisper of a call.

To Ponder

  • Today is both Women against Violence Sunday and the feast ofChrist the King. How might the Church better understand the reignof Christ as empowerment for the weak, not an exercising ofalpha-male strength?
  • How do you respond when neighbours tell you they "don't need togo to church to live a good life"?
  • Today's psalm, 95, is subtitled "A call to worship andobedience". In what way can you hear both today?
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