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February 19, 2017
Beloved, Brothers and Sisters!
We just heard in the Gospel the words of our Lord Jesus Christ regarding His awesome and glorious Second Coming. We heard about how He will sit on His dread Judgement Seat and judge the whole world. St John of Kronstadt says: “All nations shall be gathered together before Him, everyone, those whose lives have passed, those who live now, and those yet to be born.” I was startled when I read those words. Even the unborn will be present at the Last Judgement? How can that be? One thing that it clearly shows is that the unborn are people too. They are part of mankind. Will the unborn be present to be judged? Are the unborn guilty of some unknown sin? No, neither is true. The unborn are not there to be judged because they are free of any sin. They will advance unhindered to heaven. But perhaps they are there to judge! Perhaps they represent those who never had the chance to be born. Perhaps they are there as witnesses to the great evil of abortion. I am not sure what the saint meant by it, he doesn’t explain, but that’s how I interpret it anyway.
The Last Judgement seems, on the surface, to be about behaviour; who has behaved mercifully and who has behaved selfishly, who has done good things and those who have done bad things. At first glance it seems like the Lord is saying that our final disposition will all depend on how well we followed the rules, the “laws” like the 10 Commandments. But the point of the Lord’s list of sins against mankind is really much deeper than that. The Lord’s teaching on the Last Judgement is more about love.
I remember back in the late 60’s (when dinosaurs ruled the earth) when a band called  “Quicksilver Messenger Service” covered an old Bo Diddley song called “Who Do You Love?” Over and over again the song asks the question, “Who do you love?” You know, it’s a question that we need to constantly asks ourselves: “Who do I love?” We are ultimately saved by love, beloved, because love is born of faith. St Paul writes this in 1st Corinthians Chapter 13:
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." (1 Cor. 13:1-8)
Love of God is a fountain of grace which not only fills us with more love for Him, but also fills us with love for others, even the “least of these my brethren.” Love for God teaches us how to behave toward Him, and love for God also teaches us how to behave toward our neighbour who is made in His image and likeness. If we don’t truly love God, we replace that with love of self, and thus we become selfish, self-centered, and lose all concern for others. In other words, we become goats.
St Augustine of Hippo, back in the early 5th century, wrote:
“All who do not love God are strangers and antichrists. They might come to church, but they cannot be numbered among the children of God. That fountain of life does not belong to them. A bad person can have been baptised and even prophecy. King Saul prophesied: even while he persecuted the holy David...[1 Sam. 19] A bad person can receive the sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord, for is said, “All who eat and drink unworthily, eat and drink judgment on themselves.” [1 Cor. 11:29] A bad person can have the name of Christ and be called a Christian. Such people are referred to when it says, “They polluted the name of their God.” [Ezek. 36:20] To have all these sacraments is, as I say, possible even for a bad person. But to have love and be a bad person is impossible. Love is the unique gift, the fountain that is yours alone. The Spirit of God exhorts you to drink from it, and in so doing to drink from Himself.”
And St John of Shanghai and San Francisco said:

“God saves His fallen creature by His own love for him, but man’s love for his Creator is also necessary; without it he cannot by saved. Striving towards God and cleaving unto the Lord by means of humble love, the human soul obtains power to cleanse itself from sin and to strengthen itself for the struggle to complete victory over sin.”
At the Last Judgement there are two possible outcomes for all mankind; eternal bliss in Paradise, or eternal torment in hell. Now pay attention to this, even if you don’t pay attention to anything else - God does not send anyone to hell. We choose that for ourselves. As we heard in the Gospel today, “the everlasting fire (was) prepared for the devil and his angels,” NOT for human beings (Matthew 25:41.) We have to CHOOSE to join them, because we choose to be like them, and therefore we throw ourselves into the Lake of Fire. The persistent wish to deny God, and to be far away from Him, is ultimately a wish granted for eternity. Even what we describe as “torments” are themselves the love of God, which acts as torments to the wicked. St. Isaac the Syrian said, “I maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of love? I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment. For the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is more poignant than any torment. It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God. given to all. The power of love works in two ways. It torments sinners, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend. But it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties. Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret. But love inebriates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its delectability” (Ascetical Homilies #72.)
I will end with some words of St Maximus the Confessor who wrote a whole book on “Love.” He says:

“These are the marks of love, which bind human beings to God and to one another… love of humankind, brotherly and sisterly love, love of the poor, compassion, mercy, humility, meekness, gentleness, patience, freedom from anger, long-suffering, perseverance, kindness, forbearance, goodwill, and peace toward all. Out of these and through these the grace of love is fashioned, which leads one to God Who deifies the human being that He Himself fashioned” (400 Chapters on Love.)


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