On 23 February 2014, it is the Sunday of the frightening judgement or beginning of fasting without meat. His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel delivered a sermon after the Divine Liturgy celebrated in the chapel of the Patriarchal Residence dedicated to Saint Gregory the Enlightener in which he explained the significance of the evangelical pericope of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, 25:31-46, read today in all places of worship.
The humans will be judged for the lack of their humanity “The criterion of judgement is the merciful love. Saint John Chrysostom says that ‘you are not judged because you are a sinner, but because you have not repented for your sins’. You are judged especially for you lack of humanity, namely because you have not been human, namely you had no humanity. You have not used mercy as possibility to do any with any sin. Thus, the humans will be judged for the lack of their humanity, namely because they were not humans, sensitive, attentive to the sufferance of those around. Thus, this judgement does not admit neutrality or indifference towards the sufferance of one’s fellow beings. If you are merciful you are saved, if not you are not saved. This is why some other Holy Fathers, among whom Saint Gregory of Nyssa said, when speaking about the importance of mercy, that the poor are the guardians of the Kingdom of God, severe judges of the unmerciful, severe accusers of the unmerciful and strong defenders of the merciful ones. This Gospel of the Sunday of the Frightening Judgement shows us that besides the devoted prayer we saw on the Sunday of the Tax collector and of the Pharisee, and besides the sincere repentance of the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, mercy and kindness are badly needed, namely spiritual and material mercy. Spiritual mercy is a prayer for a sick, for the one in distress, a good advice, a friendly presence near a lonely sick person, while material mercy is to feed the hungry one, to dress the poor, help the sick with some money for medicine. If we cannot show material mercy because we are poor too we must show spiritual mercy through prayer for other people, through our presence near them”, His Beatitude said.
The Gospel calls us to merciful devoted love
The Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church has also mentioned the fact that “Saint John Chrysostom showed that Christ did not say ‘I was sick and you have not healed Me’ or ‘I was in prison and have not released Me’ because man cannot heal the sick, but ‘I was sick and you have not taken care of Me, I was in prison and you have not visited Me’. Thus, this merciful presence near the one in distress brings relief, a participation in bearing his cross because he is not lonely, because sufferance or isolation and loneliness is not added to the sufferance caused by disease. Thus, the Gospel calls us to merciful devoted love and shows us that those who have not gathered merciful love in their heart cannot enter the Kingdom of God, of the merciful devoted love of the Most Holy Trinity. The merciful ones are told they are “the blessed ones of the Heavenly Father, of the merciful Father of Heaven”, whereas those insensitive to other people’s sufferance are told “you accursed ones, depart from Me’. That is done with a special mention, namely that man was created from the very beginning in the image and likeness of the merciful God and if he does not reach resemblance to the merciful God, through merciful love and good deeds, he cannot unite with the merciful God. This is why the merciful ones are told “Blessed ones of My Father, come and inherit the Kingdom of God prepared for you since the foundation of the world”. That means that God prepared the Kingdom of God for the humans, not the hell. If He tells the unmerciful ones ‘you accursed ones, depart from Me go into the eternal fire’ Christ, our Lord, also explains that the eternal fire is prepared for the devil and for his angels, for his servants. In other words, we see that hell was not prepared for the humans, but for the devils, and the unmerciful humans resemble the demons who have no devotion and merciful love in them. Thus, they chose right of their will to resemble the devils who have no devotion and merciful love”.
The charitable work of the Church is inspired by the Gospel of the merciful love of Christ
As for the difference between the merciful and unmerciful ones, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel said that: “In fact, this division is not an arbitrary one, but done according to the criterion of the merciful love that Christ, our Lord, sees present or absent in the souls of those who come to the Last Judgement. On the frontispiece of the Patriarchal Cathedral of Bucharest there is the icon of the Last Judgement, namely the time when Christ, our Lord, the Right Judge says: “Come, the blessed ones of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”. This blessing of Christ for the merciful one shows us that only those who live in this world gathering merciful love through prayer to God and show it to their fellow beings can understand that life is a blessing of God. The Gospel of the Sunday of the Frightening Judgement and other texts of the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament contributed a lot to the development of the philanthropic or charitable work of the Church. This is the Gospel in which the judgement of the people is done according to the criterion of merciful love inspired not only by the individual mercy of one man to another, but also by charitable or philanthropic institutions: old people’s homes, hustles for children, houses for pilgrims, hospitals, chemist’s shops, and recently consulting rooms for the sick. A consolation and presence of the Church can also be seen in prisons where we have chapels and priests of charity as spiritual strengthening and consolation for the imprisoned ones. Thus, the charity of the Church is inspired by the Gospel of the merciful love of Christ. When we help our fellow beings in distress we become the hands of the merciful hands of Christ, we become the hands of the merciful hands of God. The people pray God to be helped, but the humans who become the help of their fellow beings as a result of the prayers to God are people sensitive to other people’s sufferance and become the hands of God helping the helpless one, and so they can better understand what the Church – the mysterious Body of Christ – means. When we become the hands of the merciful hands of Christ we show that we have the merciful Christ and Holy Eucharist present in us working through the merciful love and care for the poor and those in distress. Thus, we confess our sins to be forgiven; we have the Holy Communion for the forgiveness of our sins and for eternal life, as well as to receive love from the merciful love of Christ to show it to our fellow beings around us who need it, for the glory of the Most Holy Trinity and for our salvation. Amen!”
Next Sunday, the Orthodox Church will be on the Sunday of the Expulsion of Adam from Heaven or beginning of the Lent.