Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican
16 April 2013
Acts 7: 51-8: 1a; Matthew 25: 31-46
May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Over these three mornings, I hope to offer us very brief reflections on the readings at our celebrations of the Eucharist – but without stealing the thunder of anything that may be said by those who are leading the Bible Studies these mornings.
This morning’s Gospel reading is the subject of the Bible study being led by my colleague, Dr Katie Hefflefinger.
If you thought, just for one moment, that you were going to get judgment and damnation on your first morning in Dublin, then how wrong you were.
This morning’s Gospel reading is less about hell and damnation and more about discipleship.
At an early stage in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, as Jesus begins his ministry, he ministers first not to the first disciples, who have just been called, Peter, Andrew, James and John, but to the many, to the great crowds who follow him – the sick and the possessed, the marginalised and the economically burdensome, the ones the disciples really would like to send away (see Matthew 4: 23-25).
And then, long before he feeds the multitude, Christ reminds the disciples what it is all going to be about – the Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-12).
Now, as we come to the end of Saint Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 25: 31-46), we are reminded once again of what it is all about – before the Disciples sit down to the Last Supper, they are challenged to think about whether they have put the Sermon on the Mount into action, whether they are serving the very people identified in the Beatitudes.
We are reminded this morning that servant ministry, the ministry of service and of diakonia, is at the heart of apostolic ministry.
And we are reminded of this before we come to dine with Jesus – just as we are reminded tomorrow morning, in our study of John 13, that service is at the heart of ministry, and is integral to the ministry expressed in the shared meal.
In this morning’s Gospel reading, those get it wrong are shocked. It is not that they are unwilling to serve. They are willing to serve – but they were willing to serve the king, not the great crowds, the sick and the possessed, the marginalised, the economically burdensome, the ones the disciples really would like to send away.
As we approach the meal here, it is good to be reminded again not just what is at the heart of ministry, but the people who are supposed to be cared for in ministry – the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, those in prison.
Who are they for you today? And how does your Church provide for them, support those who minister among them? Invite them to dine with Jesus with the banquet?
And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
This was the first of three reflections at the Morning Eucharists at the Porvoo Consultation on Diaconal Ministry in Dublin, 15-18 April 2013.