Matthew 25:36, 40
I was sick and you visited Me: Amen, amen I say to You, as long as you did it to one of these My least brethren, you did it to Me.
Verse 36. And you visited me. How easy are the things our Saviour requires at our hands! He will not say at the day of judgment: “I was in prison, and you delivered me; I was sick, and you healed me; but only this, you visited me, you came to me.” S. Chrys. hom. lxxx. — This seems particularly addressed to Christians engaged in the cares of the world, whose salvation principally depends on the practice of works of mercy.
Verse 40. As long as you did it to one of these, my least brethren. Can there be a more forcible motive to charity, than the assurance of revelation that the Son of God will accept all good of offices done to the afflicted, as done to himself. This condescension of the part of Jesus Christ, will fill the elect with sentiments of profound admiration and astonishment. — Then with fire in his eyes, and terror in his countenance, he shall say to the wicked: Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels. It was not originally created for rebellious man; for man was created subsequently to the fall and damnation of the rebel angels: and though he imitated their transgression, the sentence of everlasting burning was reversed by Jesus Christ. . . By his blood man has been redeemed from eternal punishment. If many, notwithstanding, are yet condemned to never-ending flames, they are punished under the quality of the slaves of the devil: for as they have wilfully followed his rebellious example, they must expect with him to participate in his torments. Consult. i. John iii. 8.
31. When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32. And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36. Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38. When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39. Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee 40. And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43. I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45. Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
RABANUS. After the parables concerning the end of the world the Lord proceeds to describe the manner of the judgment to come.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxix.) To this most sweet section of Scripture which we cease not continually to ponder, let us now listen with all attention and compunction of spirit, for Christ does indeed clothe this discourse with more terrors and vividness. He does not accordingly say of this as of the others, The kingdom of heaven is like, but shews of Himself by direct revelation, saying, When the Son of man shall come in his majesty.
JEROME. He who was within two days to celebrate the passover, to be delivered to the cross, and mocked by men, fitly now holds out the glory of His triumph, that He may overbalance the offences that were to follow by the promise of reward. And it is to be noted, that He who shall be seen in majesty is the Son of Man.
AUGUSTINE. (in Joan. Tr. 21.) The wicked and they also who shall be set on His right hand shall see Him in human shape, for He shall appear in the judgment in that form which He took on Him from us; but it shall be afterwards that He shall be seen in the form of God, for which all the believers long.
REMIGIUS. These words overthrow the error of those who said that the Lord should not continue in the same form of a servant. By his majesty, He means His divinity, in which He is equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit.
ORIGEN. Or, He shall come again with glory, that His body may be such as when He was transfigured on the mount. His throne is either certain of the more perfect of the Saints, of whom it is written, For there are set thrones in judgment; (Ps. 122:5.) or certain Angelic Powers of whom it is said, Thrones or dominions. (Col. 1:16.)
AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xx. 24.) He shall come down with the Angels whom He shall call from heavenly places to hold judgment.
CHRYSOSTOM. For all his Angels shall be with him to bear witness to the things wherein they have administered to men’s salvation at His bidding.
AUGUSTINE. (Serm. 351, 8.) Or, by Angels here He means men who shall judge with Christ; for Angels are messengers, and such we rightly understand all who have brought tidings of heavenly salvation to men.
REMIGIUS. And all nations shall be gathered before Him. These words prove that the resurrection of men shall be real.
AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xx. 24.) This gathering shall be executed by the ministry of Angels, as it is said in the Psalm, Gather to him his saints. (Ps. 50:5.)
ORIGEN. Or, we need not understand this of a local gathering together, but that the nations shall be no more dispersed in divers and false dogmas concerning Him. For Christ’s divinity shall be manifested so that not even sinners shall any longer be ignorant of Him. He shall not then shew Himself as Son of God in one place and not in another; as He sought to express to us by the comparison of the lightning. So as long as the wicked know neither themselves nor Christ, or the righteous see through a glass darkly, (1 Cor. 13:12.) so long the good are not severed from the evil, but when by the manifestation of the Son of God all shall come to the knowledge of Him, then shall the Saviour sever the good from the evil; for then shall sinners see their sins, and the righteous shall see clearly to what end the seeds of righteousness in them have led. They that are saved are called sheep by reason of that mildness which they have learnt of Him who said, Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly, (Mat. 11:29.) and because they are ready to go even to death in imitation of Christ, who was led as a sheep to the slaughter. (Isa. 53:7.) The wicked, are called goats, because they climb rough and rugged rocks, and walk in dangerous places.
CHRYSOSTOM. Or, He calls the one sheep and the other goats, to denote the unprofitableness of the one, and the fruitfulness of the other, for sheep are greatly productive in fleece, milk, and lambs.
GLOSS. (non occ.) Under the figure of a sheep in Scripture is signified simplicity and innocence. Beautifully then in this place are the elect denoted by sheep.
JEROME. Also the goat is a salacious animal, and was the offering for sins in the Law; and He says not ‘she goats’ which can produce young, and come up shorn from the washing. (Song of Solomon 4:2.)
CHRYSOSTOM. Then He separates them in place.
ORIGEN. For the Saints who have wrought right works, shall receive in recompense of their right works the King’s right hand, at which is rest and glory; but the wicked for their evil and sinister deeds have fallen to the left hand, that is, into the misery of torments. Then shall the King say to those who are on his right hand, Come, that in whatsoever they are behind they may make it up when they are more perfectly united to Christ. He adds, ye blessed of my Father, to shew how eminendy blessed they were, being of old blessed of the Lord, which made heaven and earth. (Ps. 115:15.)
RABANUS. Or, they are called blessed, to whom an eternal blessing is due for their good deserts. He calls it the kingdom of His Father, ascribing the dominion of the kingdom to Him by whom Himself the King was begotten. For by His royal power, with which He shall be exalted alone in that day, He shall pronounce the sentence of judgment, Then shall the King say.
CHRYSOSTOM. Observe that He says not ‘Receive,’ but possess, or inherit, as duo to you from of old.
JEROME. This prepared for you from the foundation, of the world, is to be understood as of the foreknowledge of God, with whom things to come are as already done.
AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xx. 9.) Besides that kingdom of which He will say in the end, Inherit the kingdom prepared for you, though in a very inferior manner, the present Church is also called His kingdom, in the which we are yet in conflict with the enemy until we come to that kingdom of peace, where we shall reign without an enemy.
AUGUSTINE. (Serm. 351. 8.) But one will say, I desire not to reign, it is enough for me that I be saved. Wherein they are deceived, first, because there is no salvation for those whose iniquity abounds; and, secondly, because if there be any difference between those that reign, and those that do not reign, yet must all be within the same kingdom, lest they be esteemed for foes or aliens, and perish while the others reign. Thus all the Romans inherit the kingdom of Rome, though all do not reign in it.
CHRYSOSTOM. For what the Saints obtain the boon of this heavenly kingdom He shews when He adds, I was an hungred, and ye gave me to eat.
REMIGIUS. And it is to be noted, that the Lord here enumerates six works of mercy which whoso shall study to accomplish shall be entitled to the kingdom prepared for the chosen from the foundation of the world.
RABANUS. Mystically, He who with the bread of the word and the drink of wisdom refreshes the soul hungering and thirsting after righteousness, or admits into the home of our mother the Church him who is wandering in heresy or sin, or who strengthens the weak in faith, such an one discharges the obligations of true love.
GREGORY. (Mor. xxvi. 27.) These, to whom as they stand on His right hand the Judge at His coming shall say, I was an hungred &c. are they who are judged on the side of the elect, and who reign; who wash away the stains of their life with tears; who redeem former sins by good deeds following; who, whatever unlawful thing they have at any time done, have covered it from the Judge’s eyes by a cloak of alms. Others indeed there are who are not judged, yet reign, who have gone even beyond the precepts of the Law in the perfection of their virtue.
ORIGEN. It is from humility that they declare themselves unworthy of any praise for their good deeds, not that they are forgetful of what they have done. But He shews them His close sympathy with His own.
RABANUS. Lord, when sate we thee &c. This they say not because they distrust the Lord’s words, but they are in amaze at so great exaltation, and at the greatness of their own glory; or because the good which they have done will seem to them to be so small according to that of the Apostle, For the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us. (Rom. 8:18.)
JEROME. It were indeed free to us to understand that it is Christ in every poor man whom we feed when he is hungry, or give drink to when he is thirsty, and so of other things; but when He says, In that ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, He seems tome not to speak of the poor generally, but of the poor in spirit, those to whom He pointed and said, Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother. (Matt. 12:50.)
CHRYSOSTOM. But if they are His brethren, why does He call them the least? Because they are lowly, poor, and outcast. By these He means not only the monks who have retired to the mountains, but every believer though he should be secular, though an hungred, or the like, yet He would have him obtain merciful succours, for baptism and communication of the Divine mysteries makes him a brother.
ORIGEN. As He had said to the righteous, Come ye, so He says to the wicked, Depart ye, for they who keep God’s commandment are near to the Word, and are called that they may be made more near; but they are far from it, though they may seem to stand hard by, who do not His commands; therefore it is said to them, Depart ye, that those who seemed to be living before Him, might be no more seen. It should be remarked, that though He had said to the Saints, Ye blessed of my Father, He says not now, Ye cursed of my Father, because of all blessing the Father is the author, but each man is the origin of his own curse when he does the things that deserve the curse. They who depart from Jesus fall into eternal fire, which is of a very different kind from that fire which we use. For no fire which we have is eternal, nor even of any long continuance. And note, that He does not say, ‘the kingdom prepared for the Angels,’ as He does say everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his Angels; because He did not, as far as in Him lay, create men to perdition, but sinners yoke themselves to the Devil, so that as they that are saved are made equal to the holy Angels, they that perish are made equal with the Devil’s Angels.
AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xxi. 10.) It is hence clear, that the same fire will be appropriated to the punishment of men and of dæmons. If then it inflicts pain by corporeal touch, so as to produce bodily torment, how will there be in it any punishment for the evil spirits, unless the dæmons have, as some have thought, bodies composed of gross and fluid air. But if any man asserts that the dæmons have no bodies, we would not pugnaciously contend the point. For why may we not say, that truly, though wonderfully, even incorporeal spirit can feel pain of corporeal fire? If the spirits of men, though themselves incorporeal, can be now inclosed in bodily limbs, they can then be inseparably attached to the bonds of body. The dæmons then will be united to a body of material fire, though themselves immaterial, drawing punishment from their body, not giving life to it. And that fire being material will torture such bodies as ours with their spirits; but the dæmons are spirits without bodies.
ORIGEN. Or it may be that fire is of such nature that it can but invisible substances, being itself invisible, as the Apostle speaks, The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:18.) Wonder not when you hear that there is a fire which though unseen has power to torture, when you see that there is an internal fever which comes upon men, and pains them grievously. It follows, I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat. It is written to the believers, Ye are the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 12:27.) As then the soul dwelling in the body, though it hungers not in respect of its spiritual substance, yet hungers for the food of the body, because it is yoked to the body; so the Saviour suffers whatever His body the Church suffers, though He Himself be impassible. And observe how in speaking to the righteous He reckons up their good deeds under their several kinds, but to the unrighteous He cuts short the description under the one head, I was sick and in prison, and ye visited me not, because it was the part of a merciful Judge to enlarge and dwell upon men’s good deeds, but to pass lightly and cursorily over their evil deeds.
CHRYSOSTOM. Observe how they had failed in mercifulness, not in one or two respects only, but in all; not only did they not feed Him when He was hungry, but they did not even visit Him when He was sick, which was easier. And look how light things He enjoins; He said not, I was in prison, and ye did not set me free, but, and ye visited me not. Also His hunger required no costly dainties, but necessary food. Each of these counts then is enough for their punishment. First, the slightness of His prayer, viz. for bread; secondly, the destitution of Him who sought it, for He was poor; thirdly, the natural feelings of compassion, for He was a man; fourthly, the expectation of His promise, for He promised a kingdom; fifthly, the greatness of Him who received, for it is God who receives in the poor man; sixthly, the preeminent honour, in that He condescended to take of men; and, seventhly, the righteousness of so bestowing it, for what He takes from us is our own. But avarice blinds men to all these considerations.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) They to whom this is said are the wicked believers, who are judged and perish; others, being unbelievers, are not judged and perish; for there is no examination of the condition of such as appear before the face of an impartial Judge already condemned by their unbelief; but those who hold the profession of the faith, but have not the works of their profession, are convicted that they may be condemned. These at least hear the words of their Judge, because they have at least kept the words of His faith. The others hear no words of their Judge pronouncing sentence of condemnation, because they have not paid Him honour even in word. For a prince who governs an earthly kingdom punishes after a different manner the rebellion of a subject and the hostile attempts of an enemy; in the former case, he recurs to his prerogative; against an enemy he takes arms, and does not ask what penalty the law attaches to his crime.
CHRYSOSTOM. Thus convicted by the words of the Judge, they make answer submissively, Lord, when saw we thee &c.
ORIGEN. Mark how the righteous dwell upon each word, while the unrighteous answer summarily, and not going through the particular instances; for so it becomes the righteous out of humility to disclaim each individual generous action, when imputed to them publicly; whereas bad men excuse their sins, and endeavour to prove them few and venial. And Christ’s answer conveys this. And to the righteous He says, In that ye did it to my brethren, to shew the greatness of their good deeds; to the sinners He says only, to one of the least of these, not aggravating their sin. For they are truly His brethren who are perfect; and a deed of mercy shewn to the more holy is more acceptable to God than one shewn to the less holy; and the sin of overlooking the less holy is less than of overlooking the more holy.
AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xx. 1.) He is now treating of the last judgment, when Christ shall come from heaven to judge the quick and dead. This day of the Divine judgment we call the Last Day, that is, the end of time; for we cannot tell through how many days that judgment will be prolonged; but day, as is the use of holy Scripture, is put for time. And we therefore call it the last or latest judgment, because He both now judges and has judged from the beginning of the human race, when He thrust forth the first man from the tree of life, and spared not the Angels that sinned. But in that final judgment both men and Angels shall be judged together, when the Divine power shall bring each man’s good and evil deeds in review before his memory, and one intuitive glance shall present them to the perception, so that at once we shall be condemned or acquitted in our consciences.