Half way through the Triodion, and we have been reminded that we are all sinners in need of repentance, and that when one does repent and return home, we must welcome them with open arms. On the third Sunday of Triodion, known as Judgment Sunday, we are reminded of another danger. “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.” (Matthew 25.41-43)
Many look at this warning from Christ as a call to social activism. Many think, incorrectly, that if we feed and cloth people, we will earn entrance into heaven. Unfortunately, even atheists and pagans can feed and clothe people. In fact, many often do just that in cities throughout the world. The Gospel warning by Christ, must mean something more than just a call to activism. God must want us to see something different from what is in front of us at the moment. The servants complained, “When did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?” (Matthew 25.44) It wasn’t that the servants never fed the master or gave him some clothes to wear.
The difference was they could not see the others in need as Christ sees them. Every human being, from the youngest and poorest to the oldest and wealthiest, are made in the image of God. Every sick, hungry, naked, homeless, thirsty, prisoner is created in the image of God, as one of His children. If we are unable to see others in the same light that Christ sees them, we will be judged not for how many times we cross ourselves in Church or how often we receive Holy Communion, but that we didn’t see Christ in others. Because, if we don’t see Christ in others we won’t recognize Him in heaven.
As the Great Fast approaches and we increase our focus on the important spiritual exercises of increased prayer, increased fasting, increased Scripture reading, and increased Church attendance, we can’t ignore the purpose of these things. The Great Fast isn’t about what how much we do, but why we are doing it in the first place. The Great Fast is meant to focus our attention on God and our relationship with Him, and that will always include our relationship with those in need. The Gospel lesson reminds us that our judgement will be in whether we can see Christ in others, not always what we do for them.