The same Jesus Who was sent by the Father to redeem us is also the one Who will return, finally, to judge us.
What does it mean that our Redeemer is also our Judge?
The role of Jesus as Redeemer is summarized in the words of the Eucharistic Prayer: “…we were once lost and could not approach You, but You have loved us with the greatest love….”
His role as Judge is described in Matthew 25:31-46. In the end, Jesus will come in His glory to judge all people and separate them on the basis of what they have already done.
At the heart of these two moments – the moment of redemption and the moment of judgment – lies a single truth: Our response to the gift of faith, which we received at Baptism and in which we were later confirmed, tells Jesus what He needs to know.
His mercy and compassion are infinite; His love is infinite. He created us, not because we asked Him to or because He needed our permission to do so, but because He loved. He redeemed us out of that same love, so that we could again approach Him. It is, ultimately, up to us whether we choose to approach Him.
The words of Matthew 25:31-46 show us what it means to approach Him: that we saw Him hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, ill, imprisoned – saw Him in all these ways in those around us and even in the very least of them, and ministered to Him. In understanding our call to be present for and to serve all of the children of God – in finally understanding that we are called for others and not called to look out for ourselves alone, we begin to see what it means to live in faith.
Jesus as Redeemer shows us the path we must take, teaches us that He, indeed, is the Way. He as Redeemer teaches us the Word that He is and that He speaks into our hearts. He pours infinite grace on us, if only we will put ourselves in the way of it. He freely gives it all to us.
Jesus as Judge asks only whether we listened to and acted on His open invitation. His is a judgment born of love and mercy, and it will seem harsh only to those who continue to reject Him. He has told us in simple terms the basis for His judgment: that we saw Him in all those ways, and ministered to Him in the least of those we meet, or that we passed Him by in all those same ways and ministered only to our own material needs.
Jesus as Judge longs for us to be His own redeemed people.
And it is in response to this longing, to His loving invitation, that we begin to see how it is to live a life which responds to faith instead of obligation. Jesus, after all, has already paid the debt for sin. He has fulfilled the obligation by having “loved us with the greatest love,” and He has opened the way to reconcile us all to God our Father. We still are human, and we still are prone to sin; it remains only for us to choose to listen for and respond to His daily invitation: “Follow Me.”
St. John Berchmans, a young Jesuit scholar who died in the early 17th century, said, “I want to be ruled like a day-old babe.” He was known for paying careful attention to the small things that led him to God. And it is that very simplicity that we should seek in living a life of response to faith. We are, in this realm of faith, like an infant who lacks the ability to make anything happen for herself or himself. We rely entirely on God’s love, grace, and mercy to bring forth our response. How ironic that in the same day, perhaps the same hour, the same breath, we may pray for God’s grace to lead us to live as people of faith – and then reject His grace when it leads in a path we don’t like.
Dearest Savior, my Redeemer and my Judge, pour Your love and compassion into my empty life, and fill my waiting heart and soul with a love that I cannot hold – such that in response to Your great gifts, I may serve You in each and every one of Your children I meet this day. Lead me so that my way is a way of love and service that always has You as both its source and its goal.
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