Be honest! Do you really think about the second coming? After all, it’s been about 2,000 years, so why worry now? I don’t like thinking about judgment because I hate to accountable to anyone. I wish God would follow His own advice: don’t judge lest you be judged. God should be so loving and forgiving that he will just pass over all of it. Most people today seem to believe that when you die, you just walk into the warm light and all is well. Did anyone see the movie “Ghost?”
When you consider how fearfully the Bible portrays the end of all things, we it might do us good to consider what it will be like when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Certainly, the Church doesn’t teach that it’ll be all warm fuzzies and bright lights. The Lord said it would be a sheep and goats kind of experience. What does that mean and what’s the difference between sheep and goats anyway?
I looked it up and it’s not easy to tell them apart by outward appearance. Sheep say “baa” and goats say “maa.” Sheep have 54 chromosomes and goats have 60. Goats have a beard and divided upper lip, which sheep do not have. Sheep tails also hang down, even when short or docked, while the tails of goats are held upwards. Fascinating, isn’t it? But really, why do the goats get all the bad stuff?
Jesus can tell them apart. In his parable of the Judgment, he separates the two and gives us the distinguishing mark that divides them – compassion. Compassion? Oh, I wish he hadn’t of said that. Why can’t it be something else like how well I followed the rules, or kept the fast, or prayed, or how well I avoided gossip or turned from lustful thoughts?
Blessed Augustine said that we should not resist the first coming so that we will not dread the second. By first coming, does he mean when Christ was born and lived? No, he means that Christ first coming is when he comes to us in the poor, the imprisoned, the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, etc. The measure of judgment will not be how well we kept the rules, but how much compassion we have in my heart, a compassion to moves us to action.
I must be a goat boy then, and this goat boy would like to ask, is this a fair way to judge? After all, I’ve been doing religious work for over 30 years. I’ve learned to do the services, I go to confession. I’ve prayed and fasted and stood in 3 hour vigils. Shouldn’t I be judge on my many achievements and compliments and sacrifices?
When I take an honest look at my so called achievements, they aren’t so great really. Most of what I’ve accomplished happened because I had a lot of people who loved me enough to help me succeed. What have I ever done by myself that amounted to anything? The answer is nothing at all really.
And I’m glad that I won’t be judged on how well I keep the spiritual disciplines because I make a lot of excuses. Yet, unlike spiritual disciplines, everyone, absolutely everyone can exercise compassion and show mercy. It doesn’t take training, or intelligence, or wealth or beauty. It just takes heart.
I have a goat boy heart-hard and unfeeling. Goat boy needs a softer heart, so maybe the purpose of Lent can take on a new meaning. I can try to break up the stony ground of my heart with the plow of fasting and prayer. If I can break up this hard ground, perhaps the tender shoot of mercy will spring up, and the great Shepherd will move me to the winning column. I can eat more simply, so that I can share a little food and drink or part with a little of my cash. Maybe I could share some of my time or empty my closet of clothes I haven’t worn in years. Goat boy would rather not do any of this but prove my love for God with my piety, but you know how it’s going go for goat boys. I heard the Judge say, forgive and you will be forgive, show mercy, and mercy will be shown to you. I was hungry and you fed me, naked and you clothed me, thirsty and you gave me water to drink. Ok, I get it, but Goat boy wishes that he would also say something like, “hey you didn’t break the fasting rules”, or “Way to go! You really nailed that prayer rule.”
Isaiah agreed with the Lord (no surprise). In chapter 58, he says.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness a]”>[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
Sigh! Ok, goat boy understands. It’s time to say “baaaaaa.”