Matthew 25:31-46; 1 Corinthians 8:8–9:2
The judgment day will come at the end of earthly history, “when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him”. Then the Lord will “sit on the throne of His glory” and “all the nations will be gathered before Him”. Then the Lord will separate all these people from one another, “as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats”. The Lord sees without accusers and witnesses what occupies our minds, souls and aspirations. However, no one can accuse Him of partiality, or predestining any soul to death or to salvation. He will certainly give everyone a chance to say the last, free word, so that the whole world sees what He always sees.
The Lord will first turn to those on His right hand, saying, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me”. Then the righteous will say in reply to Him, “Lord, when was it” that we saw You and served You?” Why would they ask that? After all, they all have read the Holy Gospel, including the part that we are reading now. They know very well the words that the Lord will say next: “…just as you did it to one of the least of these, […] you did it to me”. The righteous have heard from the pulpit many times that by doing good deeds to our neighbor, we are doing it to the Lord Himself. However, the Lord does not expect an answer like “Yes, Lord, we know this from the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew”. He knows that in any circumstances, they will answer with a sincere surprise. He knows that a righteous man tries to follow all His commandments, but he is always focused on the Lord’s Cross, the main and supreme sign of His love. A righteous person cannot possibly consider himself able to give anything to the One Who Himself gives everything to everyone.
Then the Lord will turn to “those on His left hand, ‘‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink'”. With this, He will also give them their last word. Interestingly, the unrighteous are in a better position. Although they have not read the Gospel, they have heard how the righteous answered, denying their righteousness and arguing even with God Himself. They have also heard what the Lord said to the righteous. However, they stubbornly try to justify themselves, just as the rich man did in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. They plead innocent, claiming that they would wholeheartedly serve the Lord if He appeared to them. At the same time, in all their lives they have never reached out a helping hand to anyone. The Lord gives them one last opportunity. All they have to say is, “Yes, Lord, we have done nothing good either to You or to our neighbors, but forgive us “according to Your great mercy!”
Discussing this Gospel reading, some conclude that everything necessary for salvation is helping one’s neighbor and doing good deeds. Often these people consider the Church doctrine and worship unnecessary. However, in reality, it is impossible to answer in the way the righteous answered without the right faith and participation in the Church Sacraments. It seems that if the righteous agreed with the Lord’s assessment of their labors, and the sinners asked for mercy, they would swap sides. However, the Lord knew whom He would put on His right and left hand. He knew the answers right away. With His love, He did everything for all to inherit salvation, but some have chosen to blind their eyes and plug their ears.
“And these will go away into eternal punishment” prepared for the devil and his angels. Let us note that they will not be dragged there by force. They will do so voluntarily, moved by their truly demonic opposition to God and His truth.
Source: Full Cycle of Sermons on Daily Apostolic and Gospel Readings / Archpriest Vyacheslav Reznikov