Reflection on Matthew 25.31-46 (Lent)

Jesus said: When the Son of Man comes in glory … he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

Christianity is often portrayed as a religion of forgiveness and love. This is, of course, true, but this simplistic view does not tell the whole story. In Matthew, chapter 5, verse 17, Jesus says: Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets, I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. Jesus’ words make it clear that the law of God is important. 

The law of God of which Jesus speaks is the ‘real’ law, not the constructs of religious leaders and political powers. The laws of the scribes and the Pharisees distanced people from God, aligning their adherents with the goats who would ultimately be condemned to eternal damnation. It is only by following the law which Jesus came to fulfil that we will be led into the company of the sheep at his right hand.

As well as warning us that there will be consequences if we fall into the trap of believing that saying we are Christian is enough, today’s reading also gives us a route map for the way in which we should live our lives according to God’s law. When questioned, Jesus taught that we should love God above all things, and then we should love our neighbours, including our enemies! Today we are given examples of what living in the spirit of Christian love really means. Jesus tells us that it is our duty to see him in the most vulnerable in our world: the hungry and the thirsty, the stranger and the naked, the sick and the prisoner. We are called to do that which is counter-cultural to so many of us … to embrace the untouchable, the unlikeable, those who are ‘not like us’.

Our view of Christianity is often distorted by a misplaced focus on the ‘benefits’ of faith, without our ever considering our duty to live in a Christ-like way. Throughout the gospel narrative we are reminded that there will be a second-coming of Christ, and that that time will be a time of judgement, a time of embracing and separation. Today we are called to decide where our ultimate destination is going to be … on the right with the sheep, Jesus’ chosen ones, or on the left, condemned to eternal damnation? The solution to this conundrum lies in our hands!