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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Mat. 25:31–46]

AFTER Jesus had admonished His disciples to prepare for the Last Judgment, He described it to them in these words: “When the Son of Man shall come in His majesty, and all His angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the seat of His majesty. All nations shall be gathered together before Him; and He shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats. And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

“Then the King shall say to them that shall be on His right hand: ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 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 took Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’—Then shall the just answer Him, saying: ‘Lord, when have we done these things to Thee?’ The King shall answer and say to them: ‘Amen, I say to you, as long as you have done it to one of these, My least brethren, you did it to Me.’

“Then shall He say to them on His left hand: ‘Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave Me not to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me not in; naked, and you clothed Me not; sick and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then shall they also answer Him, saying: ‘Lord, when did we see Thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to Thee?’ Then He shall answer them: ‘Amen, I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least ones, neither did you do it to Me.’ And these shall go into everlasting punishment, but the just into life everlasting.”

Jesus our Judge. The judgment at the end of the world will be held by our Lord Jesus Christ; and our Redeemer will then be our Judge. The Son of God came into the world the first time in poverty and lowliness: when He comes again to judge us, He will come in power, glory and great majesty. Then those will tremble who have not believed in Him, or who have despised His commandments, His Church, and His Sacraments.

The Angels also will take part in accusing the wicked, and bearing testimony to the just. Then, after the judgment, they will take God’s chosen ones, whose guardians and protectors they were on earth, into the eternal joy of the heavenly marriage-feast.

The judgment will be general. All men, though they have been already judged privately, will stand before God’s judgment-seat, and be judged together and openly.

The Divine Judge will equally make known the good works of the just and the evil deeds of the wicked, so that the former may publicly receive their merited praise and reward, and the latter may be put to open shame; and men and angels may know and confess the justice of the Divine Judge.

The law by which men will be judged is that first commandment of Christ, the law of love, which contains in itself all the other commandments. He who for the love of our Lord has, according to his ability, done good to his fellow-men, and practised a real love of his neighbour springing from his love for God, will be rewarded for what he has done, just as if he had done it to our Lord Himself. But he who has either performed no works of charity, or has not performed them for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, will stand condemned, because such an one has neither true love nor living faith. We shall therefore be judged not only for the evil which we have done, but also for the good which we have omitted to do.

The sentence will be publicly pronounced. This sentence will be twofold: To the just will be adjudged everlasting life, while the unjust will be banished to hell; both reward and punishment being carried out immediately after the judgment.

Heaven. The just will go to God. They will live for ever in His sight, having that perfect union with Him which fills them with inconceivable joy and glory.

The punishment of hell consists in this, 1. that the damned are cursed and rejected by God, and deprived of His Vision, in the possession of which alone happiness lies; 2. that they will suffer in fire unquenchable and in the company of devils. The punishment of the damned will be certainly as unending as the happiness of the just.

A comparison of the two sentences shows that the one is the exact opposite of the other:

Come

              Depart from Me

 

Ye blessed of My Father

              Ye cursed. (Not, ye cursed of the Father, because the sinner himself, not God, is the author of the curse of the unjust.)

 

Possess ye the kingdom

              into everlasting fire

 

Prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

              Prepared for the devil and his angels, (Our Lord does not say “prepared for you”, for God created hell only for the devils, and He “wills that all men be saved”. Moreover hell was not prepared from the beginning of creation, being created only at the time when the angels fell.)

 

Faith alone cannot save. In the parable of the virgins our Lord taught us plainly that the oil of good works is necessary in addition to the lamp of faith; and He related the parable of the talents for the sole purpose of showing us that he only can be saved who uses the gifts and graces given to him by God, for the practice of works pleasing to God. Now, in the account we have read to-day, our Lord tells us that at the judgment those will be condemned who do not practise works of mercy, and that good works alone can claim the eternal reward of heaven. It is therefore our Lord’s distinct doctrine, that good works are necessary for salvation, and it is almost inconceivable that the comfortable idea that faith alone will save us, should ever have been proclaimed to be the doctrine of Christ!

APPLICATION. You also, with the rest of mankind, will be called before the judgment-seat of God. On which side of our Lord do you mean to be? Shall you be among the sheep who have obeyed the voice of their Good Shepherd, or among the goats who have lived according to their own lusts? What a terrible misfortune if you found yourself on the left hand, cursed and rejected by your Lord, separated from those dear to you, and cast into everlasting fire with the devils! To be rejected and cursed by Jesus, and separated for ever from God, who is the source of all happiness, would be such a terrible disaster, that we cannot even picture it to ourselves!

Do you wish to escape this awful fate? Then judge yourself severely now in the holy tribunal of Penance. Accuse yourself sincerely and with a contrite heart both of the sins you have committed, and of the good which you have omitted to do, and make a very firm resolution of amendment. The Sacrament of Penance is the tribunal of God’s mercy. If you present yourself at that tribunal often and with a good preparation, you will not be rejected when you appear before God’s Tribunal at the Last Day.








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