The Last Judgement? Is it about afterlife? NO! ABOUT LIFE! And its ultimate values. If you want to know what any given society thinks of itself, what are its fears and dreams, what are its hidden dungeons and highest aspirations, I would say: go and study its mythology diligently. If you don’t have the time, and if you need a crash course on society's ethical system and shared values, I will point you to its beliefs about the afterlife and/or final judgement (Judgment day). Anthropologically, as well as theologically speaking, these beliefs will not tell you anything about the realities they pretend to be describing. How could they? No one knows them! They do tell you in a most condensed way the society’s ethical and moral values. In a nutshell, doctrines about afterlife are in essence the most powerful and intense way of speaking about this life. And thus Classical Greek descriptions of Hades tell us a lot about the values of that society, what was considered foul and punishable, and what was highly thought of and celebrated. The Egyptian Book of the Death presents an archetypal image of the divine judgement (a weighing of a heart), with a long list of the renounced vices, thus providing an interesting insight into the morals of the Egyptian New Kingdom society. In a similar manner Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno” allows us to observe the ethical values of high medieval Europe. Jewish and Early Christian Apocalyptic literature does not portent the future, but in thick prophetic colors, it paints a picture of a faithful resistance to oppressive Hellenistic empires. The lectionary reading this Sunday is the parable of The Last Judgement (Matthew 25:31-46). This parable goes back to the early church and (in some aspects) probably to Jesus himself. And, again, the true meaning and the message of this parable is not in predicting and describing the future. From the beginning this parable was a powerful vehicle to outline what were the core values of the followers of Jesus. What do we as Christian believe as the most important part of life? What, according to us, truly matters to God? In this parable we touch the heart of who we are or who we would like to be. For all, it might be quite a surprise!
New translation and dramatisation of Matthew 26:31-46
Narrator . . . . . . . . . . N
Jesus . . . . . . . . . . . J
Congregation 1 . . . . C1
Congregation 2 . . . . C2
N When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
then he will take a seat upon his glorious throne.
And all the nation and peoples will be gathered before him,
and he will sort one from another,
just as a shepherd sorts sheep from goats
- sheep will go to his right and goats to his left.
And then the king will declare to those on the right -
J Come, you who are praised by my Father,
take into your possession the Kingdom,
which has been prepared for you from the beginning of the world.
For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat,
I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink,
I was stranger, and you welcomed me in,
I was naked, and you clothed me,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison, and you went to me
N Then these righteous will respond -
C1 But, Master, what are you talking about?
When did we ever see you hungry and fed you,
thirsty and offered you drink?
When did we ever see you a stranger and welcomed you in,
naked and clothed you?
When did we ever see you sick
or in prison and went to you?
N And the King will declare to them -
J Truly I tell you,
just as you did to the least significant in the world
you did it to me.
N Then he will declare to those on the left -
J Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal selfishness
which consumes the Devil and his retinue.
For I was hungry, and you didn’t give me to eat,
I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me to drink,
I was stranger, and you didn’t welcome me in,
I was naked, and you didn’t cloth me,
I was sick and in prison and you didn’t go to me
N They will be surprised and asking,
C2 But, Master, what are you talking about?
When did we ever see you hungry
or thirsty or a stranger or naked
or sick or in prison,
and we did not help you?
N And he will declare to them -
J Truly I tell you, whenever you refused to help
these least significant in the world,
you were refusing to help me.
N And they will disappear into eternal oblivion,
but the righteous will receive the fullness of life.
Responses of Faithful Life (intended not only for liturgy)
I am hungry, ... and we give you something to eat,
I am thirsty, ... and we give you something to drink,
I am stranger, ... and we give you warm welcome,
I am naked, ... and we give you good clothes,
I am sick, ... and we give you fine healthcare,
I am in prison, ... and we give you another chance.