The Sunday of the Last judgement starts the third week of the preparation period for the Great Lent. It is our time to contemplate the Last Judgement of our Lord. What kind of judgement is it? And why do we also call it final?
As people of the world, we tend to describe divine notions in secular terms. Many imagine the final judgement as some kind of court, an instrument of persecution and retribution against law-breakers. To be honest, we sometimes harbour these expectations from God when we experience some worldly injustice. "Where is God?" - we cry out. "Why does not He intervene and restore justice?"
But God who gives the sinners and the righteous their dues is not someone who lies in waiting to punish a wrongdoer after the fact. He is not a prosecutor but our loving Father. He acts differently, even at the Last Judgement. To understand that, let us imagine having someone in our lives who had dedicated to us his capabilities and hopes; who always came to our aid whenever we asked for it. But at some moment, he left this world. He is no longer with us, and we say to ourselves with fear and remorse, "He gave me his love and care, why did I do so little for him? Why did not I show him more gratitude? Why did not I find time to say thank you?" For some reason, we had not responded to his gift of love to us, and now we feel remorse and suffer from the pangs of conscience.
Likewise, the Judgement of our Lord does not seek to punish us with imprisonment or impose some other penalty. What gives us fear and trembling is the hurting wound of not responding to the love given to us. We understand that we are powerless to change anything, that there is no turning back, and that exacerbates our anguish even more.
So how can we respond to the love of our Lord? By taking heed to his simple words about giving water to the thirsty and feeding the hungry. By reading their pleas for our help that come from the Lord himself. By visiting the sick, who ask us for company and comfort, because the Lord Himself is asking for it. By seeing a prisoner, caring for the lonely and those in pain.
He calls on us to do more than give alms - He wants us to recognise Him in them. We answer His love by seeking a conversation with Him, as only by conversing with Him can we be His true children. Saint John of the Ladder wrote, "God will not judge us for not performing miracles, or not being prophets. He will judge us for not answering, not seeking and not responding."
As we commemorate of the Final Judgement, let us not imagine its bitter punishments. Let us instead seek greater closeness to Him and trust in His love. May this Sunday of the Last Judgement teach us how to respond to His love with our compassion, friendship and humanity and to recognise our Lord in the sick, the needy, the hungry and the lonely. Let us appreciate the service of others, and not take it for granted. May Our merciful, forgiving and loving Father in Heaven help us lead full and dignified lives.