Matthew 25: 31-46
31 "When the new Adam appears accompanied by his messengers, then he will sit with the extraordinary quality of his being. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations. Then he will separate people from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 On the one hand, there will be the sheep on his right, and on the other hand, the goats on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come! You, whom my Father has never ceased to value, inherit the domain which has been yours since the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me'. 37 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and fed you, or thirsty and gave you to drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and dress you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and came to you?' 40 The king will then answer them: 'Truly, I assure you, everything that you did to one of these little ones who are my brothers, you did it to me'. 41 Then he will say to those to his left, 'Go far from me to the eternal fire which has been prepared for the adverse desire and its messengers. 42 For I was hungry and you did not give me food, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, ill and in prison and you did not visit me'. 44 Then they too will answer: 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and we did not help you?' 45 Then he will give them this answer: 'Really, I assure you, everything that you did not do to one of these little ones, to me either you did not do it'. 46 And they will go for an endless punishment, and the righteous for an endless life".
We must wait for the egg to hatch to see the differences
Gospel commentary - Homily
Amer Yaquob Ashao is 53 years old. He lives in Mosul, Iraq. His life is about to turn upside down. His Muslim neighbor comes to warn him that an imam told the mosque that the Christians must leave the city, otherwise they would be killed the next day at noon. He himself cannot defend him, because they would kill his own son: the Islamic State took possession of the city. Amer fled to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Even if he has to live in the carcass of a building under construction with many other refugees, he was lucky: he owes everything to his Muslim neighbor. "He is a good man. He watches over my house and waters my garden every day. He sent me my documents by taxi to Erbil, it cost him 50,000 dinars ($ 47). Christians and Muslims have always lived as brothers in Mosul. But if the Islamic State becomes encrusted, if it takes over the schools, I am afraid for the next generation".1
I thought that this painful situation, which is making headlines, could accompany our reflection on this narrative from Matthew concerning the last judgment. And the first reason is that there is an end times context, where before describing the scene of the judgment, Jesus speaks of wars, warns that some will be delivered to torment and will be killed, mentions the presence of false prophets, of internal struggles and betrayals. Such a situation occurs whenever our world is turned upside down. This is particularly the case in the Middle East where several countries are on fire and blood. The second reason is Amer's Muslim friend, who expressed his compassion and love for him by donating his time and money; does that not recall: I was hungry, you gave me to eat ... I was naked, you dressed me, etc.? The irony is that this is a Muslim who takes care of a Christian.
Matthew presents to us in this scene of the last judgment the end of the 5th and last speech of Jesus. It is aimed at a community made up mainly of Christians of Jewish origin around the 80s or 85 AD. This community is going through a difficult period, a real identity crisis. It was rejected by Orthodox Jews and can no longer go to synagogues, and now the ritual laws and dietary prescriptions that are part of the Jewish identity are abandoned by the whole of the young Christian community, and the great leaders Christian Jews like James, Peter and Paul died. They are looking for benchmarks. In addition, this so-called return of Christ is long overdue: when will the parousia be? Perhaps a single sentence in Matthew gives an echo of the community situation: "As a result of increasing iniquity (absence of law), love will cool down among the many" (Matthew 24: 12). It is in this context that he must summarize his catechesis.
The basis of Matthew's approach is to make Jesus the new Moses. Besides, for his first speech (the sermon on the mount), Jesus climbed a mount, like Moses at Sinai. Matthew will give the name "words" in Greek: logoi (our bibles often translate by instructions) to the five speeches of Jesus, just as Moses gave his people the "ten words" according to the narrative of Exodus (which we often translate by commandments). There will be five great discourses of Jesus, no doubt like the five fundamental books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). Thus, the Judeo-Christian community is no longer without law; Jesus gives a new law, presented first by the sermon of the mount with its beatitudes and its call to go beyond the action of the scholars of the Law, and summarized in the form of a conclusion in our narrative of the last judgment. What is this conclusion? Show compassion for the hungry, the thirsty, the poor, the stranger, the sick and the prisoner. By doing this, it is the risen Christ himself that we love. This is the gist of the new law.
In this conclusion of Matthew, there is something surprising. The actors in this scene include all nations, not just Christians. To inherit the kingdom of endless life, the only criterion is to have known how to show a compassionate heart: it is no longer a question of being baptized, Christian, or Jewish. And any gesture of compassion is basically a gesture of love towards the risen Christ, no matter who poses it, whether he is Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist. Yet does not this same Matthew conclude his gospel by putting in the mouth of Jesus: "Go therefore, of all nations make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"? No doubt, this request must be seen as a means towards a goal, the goal being at the end of this invitation: "... teaching them to observe everything that I have prescribed for you." And here I am with you forever until the end of the world". What is prescribed for all, the goal of any community, the goal of all human history, is precisely this compassionate heart.
Everyone receives with open arms this narrative of Matthew. Personally, I say with pleasure: this is the essential of life, even if it is demanding on certain days. But to properly update the story of Matthew, we should add a chapter that looks at the complexity of loving through our socio-economic structure. It is easy to talk about individual love, to let your heart speak in front of a screaming person, but how to love in a complex world by making the right political choices as a society. In 1991, Michel Camdessus, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, proposed to "reconcile the three hands": "the invisible hand", that of the market, which has its own operating rules, which should not be disturbed too much under trouble creating serious disorder; "The hand of justice", that of the State, which arbitrates and distributes, using force, because the market is far from providing for it in a harmonious manner; finally "the fraternal hand", that of the neighbor, always necessary to reintroduce humanity where the collective effort of a just distribution was not successful2. Someone like Louis-Joseph Lebret, a Dominican priest and founder of Économie et Humanisme (Economy and humanism), devoted his life to how to evangelize the economy. This chapter which is missing from the Gospel of Matthew, it is up to us to write it.
2 See full article from Jean-Jacques Pérennès, dominican priest, A contemporary divorce from modernity, translation of Un divorce contemporain de la modernité, Présence, Vol. 4, N. 31, Décember 1995, p. 26-28
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, October 2014