A STRANGE JUDGEMENT
The sources leave no doubt. Jesus goes about doing his utmost toward those he sees needing help. He’s incapable of passing by. No suffering is too much for him. He identifies himself with the smallest and most wretched and does everything he can for them. For him, compassion is first. The only way we can be like God: «Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate».
We oughtn’t be surprised that when he speaks of the Last Judgement, Jesus presents compassion as the final criterion to judge our lives and our identification with him. How is it going to surprise us that he presents himself identified with all the poor and unfortunate of history?
According to Matthew’s story, «all the nations» appear before the Son of man, that is to say, before the compassionate Jesus. There’s no difference whatsoever between «chosen people» and «pagan people». Nothing is said about the different religions and cultures. There’s talk of something very human that all understand: what have we done for those who have gone about suffering right next to us?
Appropriately so, the Gospel writer doesn’t dwell on the details of the judgement. What he picks out is a double dialogue that throws a bright light over our present moment, and opens our eyes to see that there are definitely two ways of reacting in the face of those who suffer: we have compassion and help them, or we ignore and abandon them.
The one who speaks is a judge who is identified with all the poor and needy. «As far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me». Whoever has gone close to help a person in need has gone close to him. Therefore they will be next to him in the kingdom: «Come, blessed of my Father».
Then he will turn to those who have gone about without compassion: «In so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me». Whoever has separated themselves from those who suffer, have separated themselves from Jesus. It’s logical that he now says to them: «Go away from me». Follow your path.
Our life is judged right now. There’s no wait for any judgement. Right now we are coming close to or separating ourselves from those who suffer. Right now we are coming close to or separating ourselves from Christ. Right now we are deciding our life.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf