One of the things that gets me each time I read the parable of the final judgment in Matthew’s Gospel is that both those judged to be sheep and those judged to be goats are completely surprised by the King. It seems as if they are expecting some other mark of judgment as they gather before the throne. I think I’m struck by this because I imagine that I too will be surprised on the day of judgment. I will likely be as surprised by who God lets in as I will be the starkness of my own judgment. The one thing I hope I won’t be left asking is the question that gets asked by both the sheep and the goats.
“Lord, when did we see you?”
While I think Episcopalians, myself included, have a tendency to lean too heavily on the Baptismal Covenant, an invention, albeit a very good one, of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer that we pretend was handed down to us by Saint Peter himself, I do think this lesson is one of those opportunity to be reminded that if this is the criteria by which we are going to be judged, we have already made vows to fulfill the obligation. With God’s help, of course.
“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul prays that God might “enlighten the eyes of their hearts to know the hope to which they have been called.” This phrase is increasingly becoming the foundation of my understanding of discipleship. I think we grow in relationship with God by learning how to see the world through God’s eyes. As we become more in tune with the heart of God, we see more clearly the injustices of this world, we see the suffering and are moved with compassion, we see the lonely, the anxious, the hungry, the naked, the poor, the outcast, the incarcerated, and the hopeless and we are compelled to act because in them, as in all our neighbors, we see the face of Christ.
Of course, this does not happen on our own. The only way to fix our spiritual eyesight is with the help of God. Through prayer and studying the Scriptures, God works on the eyes of our hearts, making us more and more able to see, so that, when the day of judgment comes, our question cannot be, or at least should not be, Lord when did we see you, because we know, with God’s help, that we see Christ in every person we meet.