Similar natural approach we can see in the both groups of people from today’s Gospel.
The Blessed on the right had of the King of the Universe couldn’t even remember when they fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, visited the sick and the prisoners. They were truly the people of whom the Lord Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘When you give alms your right hand must not know what your right is doing.’ How can you not remember that? - some may ask. Does it mean that you have dementia? It is not about dementia but it is about being so transformed by Jesus Christ that it is just the obvious course of action for you. It becomes so ordinary for you to do these things that they just blend into your ordinary life, like thirty four, so called, ordinary Sundays in our liturgical calendar blend into the year. They don’t stand out to us like some other big celebrations.
The condemned on the left hand of the King of the Universe had also a natural approach. Theirs was about ignoring the needs of their neighbours. They couldn’t even remember the needy around them like the man from the parable who partied magnificently while Lazarus was dying of starvation at his door.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! On this glorious solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe the Gospel we have heard was the last public proclamation of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. Our Blessed Lord delivered it only a couple of days before he himself was to be hungry, thirsty, estranged, naked, ill and imprisoned. This last talk of Jesus and the long hours which followed the Last Supper witnessed Jesus who identified himself with the needy. Not some of them but all of them.
We live in the society which claims to support those in need. However the society chooses to support only some, while rejecting others. Those who cannot defend themselves like the unloved unborn babies are denied the most fundamental of the human rights: the right to live. In recent days we witnessed a new low in our society when those who are overburdened by illness or their age, instead of the assurance and love, they have been given the message that it is ok if they kill themselves. How long is it going to take when it becomes a new expectation?
Following the debate on euthanasia in the State Parliament I had to walk away from the TV set as I was heartbroken seeing the exultation of some parliamentarians and some spectators when the bill was passed. How can one celebrate a thought of killing a vulnerable?
My Dear fellow believers! Ours is the era into which Our Blessed Lord wants to send you and me as messengers of his Good News. Like the Blessed on the right hand of the King of the Universe we are to declare before the world that every person’s fundamental human right is to be loved with the love we love God. Jesus said: ‘You cannot love God whom you don’t see if you don’t love the person whom you do see.’
Our first Christian sisters and brothers who lived in the Roman Empire faced a similar situation. Despised for their beliefs and persecuted, they also witnessed moral corruption of their contemporary society. The ancient Roman culture produced great pieces of art and architecture. Their literature and philosophy still inspire people. However behind those remarkable achievements there is no only the suffering of many conquered peoples and slaves but also the degradation of their own society. Recently I was reading a book in which there were letters of some Roman dignitaries from that time. One of them was writing to his pregnant wife instructing her that after giving birth she was to keep the baby if it was a boy but to do away with the baby if it was a girl. He was writing with such easiness about life and death that you may think he was talking about a toy. Archaeologist discovered that very few families at that time had more than one girl. What happened to other girls? Answer yourself. In such a society the first Christians lived, society which was sophisticate culturally but degenerated morally. However they did not accept the trendy views. The Christians did not kill they baby girls. They passed from one generation to another that husbands should love their wives the way Jesus loves his Church. Eventually due to the shortage of women the Christian women were being taken for wives and they were brining to their new households their beliefs in God and who people were in God’s eyes. In this way they were slowly transforming the society from within.
What was their secret? It was their conscience.
A priest recalled a conversation he had with a woman:
Father, another day I had to go travel a couple of bus stops from my work. I realised that I had no ticket and no money. I decided not to because I was afraid to get caught and fined. I would be ashamed. The priest answered: It is not about a fine or shame. It is about your conscience.
My Dear Friends! In the Catechism we read: Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment.
As Jesus said: ‘If you are faithful in little things you will be faithful in the large ones.” The conscience is not about how we feel but it is about good and evil discerned in the light of God’s word. Thus conscience needs to be constantly formed by the faith which has been treasured in our Church for millennia.
In our Catholic tradition we have the Nine First Friday Devotions. They are about the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They are about receiving Holy Communion. However they are also about going for Reconciliation which includes doing Examination of Conscience. I can assure you that anyone who does this ‘course’ of the Nine First Fridays will be able to form their conscience greatly.
The Blessed on the right hand of the King of the Universe were people of good conscience. Their way of life was a natural expression of their faith in God.