I don’t know about you, but when I think about Jesus, I prefer to think of sinner-pardonin’, loaves and fishes multiplyin’, ear-healin’ Jesus. It makes me uncomfortable to think about table-turnin’, Peter-scoldin’, Gehenna-throwin’-into Jesus. Jesus is supposed to be nice, right? Surely a God who loves us wouldn’t ever turn us away, right? RIGHT?! Well, if Jesus’ words in this Sunday’s Gospel reading are to be believed, a moment of judgement awaits us all, so we’d best be ready. We will all get our due. Justice will be done. Sounds kind of ominous, eh? Actually, the whole of the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew’s gospel is a drawn-out warning: Know Jesus and live Jesus’s teachings or risk missing out on heaven. Jesus’s words couldn’t be clearer.
So, what does that mean for us today? How should we respond? How do we get ready for something when we don’t really know anything about when or how it will happen?
For we the faithful, Matthew 25 is as strong in offering tips as it is in issuing warnings:
Preparation – The point of the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt 25:1-13) is readiness. We ‘know neither the day nor the hour’ the ‘bridegroom’ will return, so we need to do everything we can to prepare our souls, expecting that Jesus’s return is imminent. We can do that by ceaselessly working to ever develop our relationship with Jesus through prayer as well as regularly receiving the sacraments, especially Eucharist and Reconciliation. It’s also important for us to encourage those around us to avail themselves of those opportunities as well.
Vocation and vocation – The Parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14-30) teaches us about using what we’ve been given to do the work of the ‘Master’. What is God calling you to? What gifts or talents (vocation) has God given you for that journey? In which life circumstance (Vocation) is God calling you to use those gifts and talents? As the parable illustrates so well, we don’t all share the same starting line. We don’t all begin with the same volume of charisms. God gifts and calls us differently. Our response to that giftedness and to that call is what matters to God.
Service – In the account of the Judgement of the Nations (Mt 25:31-46), Jesus commands us to see and serve Him in the poor and marginalized in our midst. When someone is hungry, naked, a stranger, etc., it is our responsibility to work to see that those immediate needs are met. We can do this by paying special attention to those who live in our neighborhoods and communities, as well as those we encounter through school and work. Our Church also challenges us to expand our understanding of this passage to include our global neighbors. To put it simply: those with should be in service to those without.
In short, I don’t think Jesus is trying to scare us through Matthew 25 as much as He is trying to wake us up to the truth and challenge of discipleship. Our ultimate goal should be to one day hear those words first seen in Matthew 25:21: ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant…Come, share your master’s joy.’