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November 19, 1993     The Message
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November 19, 1993

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19, 1993 The Message m for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 9 " Commentary -- End of Jesus' ministry: Judgment of all nations 8 Gospel Commentary for Unday, Nov. 21, Thirty-fourth unday, Ordinary Time, Cycle Feast of Christ the King. atthew 25:31.46. Matthew's story of the judg- raeat of all nations brings his gOSpel to the end of Jesus' public lstry. After this Matthew will seat us with his version of the StSupper, the suffering, death, resurrection of Jesus. The scene of today's reading is the judg- reat of all nations by Jesus as By FATHER DON DILGER COLUMNIST SUpreme and final judge. He is ete]d aL a of glory as he returns with his throne .,  -. ne scene is " " the.S^_ - reminiscent of the pmture of That :ua o! Man".in glory in the Book of Daniel. ext in Darnel speaks of"one like a son of man" before "the Ancient of Days" to receive do- This is the foremost back- story of the final judgment. 1 the nations are gathered before and the wicked are separated from "like sheep from goats." Matthew follows tradition in casting goats in a negative example, the scapegoat of Leviticus 16. The the right, the wicked on the left. Again -old prejudice, the right side is the is a blessing upon the good on the an invitation to enter "the kingdom of my for you from the beginning of the wicked on the left receive a sentence of and are dispatched into "eternal fire prepared for the devil and his an- gels." The trial was brief. The evi- dence was all in. Matthew had al- ready pointed this out in an earlier parable when latecomers were told that the door was closed and "I do not know you." The sole criterion used for judging in this scene is how each person responded to even implicit cries for help -- to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, provide shelter for the homeless, visit the sick, console the imprisoned. If Matthew has not said much about the poor throughout his gospel, he remedies that situation in this wonderful story worthy even to be placed in the "Gospel of the Poor," the Gospel of Luke. It must be understood that what we have here is a teaching story, a theological lesson. It is not a graphic description of some future historical event. Matthew, a literary and theological genius, paints an imaginative scene into which he weaves his own theology and that of the particular Christian Church for which he is writing. Though this scene of final judgment is not found in our other three gospels, we do find it in other writings of that time. The form left us by Matthew is brief, sharp, to the point. These characteristics indicate that the story in some form originates with Jesus him- self. Who is being judged in this scene? Christians only or all people? The probable answer is that Matthew intends to say judgment applies to every human being. After all, we are told by Paul, Mark, Matthew, and Luke, that the gospel has been pro- claimed to the whole world. Thus all have a chance to respond to it, to decide for or against. Note that even the wicked call Jesus, "Lord," in this story. We note that Matthew says nothing about faith and salvation in this story. The emphasis is entirely on good works as the criterion for reward or con- demnation On the other hand it is commonly ac- cepted and frequently proclaimed that Paul speaks of faith as the sole means of being acceptable to God. What is sometimes forgotten by "cafeteria" Bible quoters, who choose what they like and ignore the rest, is Paul's emphasis on good works in all his letters. In Galatians 5:6 he speaks of faith working or being made effective through love. Yet love is never static, and neither is faith. On the other hand, Matthew does not ignore faith either. For ex- ample in 9:29: "According to your faith be it done to you," and in 23:23 he speaks of"justice, and mercy, and faith" as the most important things to do. The lesson for us in Matthew's great judgment scene is that we cannot love and serve the Lord un- less we love and serve him in our fellow humans. This is Matthew's final commentary on Jesus' state- ment: "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the prophets: 'You shall love the Lord your God...and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." As the Letter of James states unequivo- cally: "Faith without works is dead." Therefore, "whatever you do to these the least of my sisters and brothers, you do to me." Other readings: Ez 34:11-12; I Cor 15:20-26. in Stock" 5: ,s ...... $18.95  ' ................. In ; ................ 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