This Sunday has two names: the first is the Sunday of the Last Judgement and the second, Meatfare Sunday. The Gospel reading for this Sunday from Matthew 25:31-46, vividly describes the scene of Christ the King, the Son of God, seated on His throne separating the people like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left, and then He will say to the sheep on His right, “Come you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world”. Then with equal determination the King says to those on His left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”.
Both groups perplexed by the King’s pronouncements questioned the Lord and asked when did they give drink, or did give food…or clothing…or visited Him…to which the Lord said first to those on the right, “truly I say whatever you did for my brethren you did unto me. Then to those questioning on the left He said, “truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for least of my brothers you did not do for me”. Then concluding the Lord said to those on His left go to eternal punishment but the righteous to eternal life!
Through this Parable of the Last Judgement, Christ the King teaches us that heaven and hell have to do with the fulfillment of each other’s physical and spiritual needs. For as we, the faithful, seek to serve each other in His name and by His grace, or as we fail to do so, we experience degrees of true life or degrees of darkness – realities that become permanent beyond the grave.
Jesus has taught us both by example and teaching, that the main virtues of Christians are faithful obedience and loving service to God and each other. God does not cause judgement at any time. He doesn’t do something vengeful to evildoers nor does He prepare a place of punishment. God is love and by His very nature He cannot do what us evil, hateful, or destructive to anyone. Judgement results when someone is separated from God who is the source of light and life. Judgement therefore results when we willfully shutoff ourselves from God’s redeeming love.
Yes my dear people there is judgement, both temporary and eternal, BUT WE JUDGE OURSELVES!
The second meaning of this Sunday is Meatfare, the last day in which we are to have meat until the glorious Pascha of Our Lord. Next Sunday is Cheesefare Sunday, the Russian term used locally is Maslanitsa, the last day to have dairy products for the duration of the Great and Holy Lent.
So, as we draw nearer to the start of Great Lent and are in the midst of the preparatory Sunday’s let us become ever mindful of our own self and strengthen ourselves with God’s help to have a rewarding and awe-inspiring journey to the Cross.