Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
“The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
Every so often in the history of the Church, there arises interest in what’s called “universalism”. This is the belief that all human persons will eventually be saved. There’s an even broader version of this belief which claims that all spiritual persons (that is, both human and angelic) will eventually be saved. The consistent teaching of Christ’s Church, however, draws upon His clear preaching about both the afterlife in general and the Last Judgment more specifically.
Today’s Gospel passage is taken from St. Matthew’s Gospel account, which is the longest of the four. In this account, most of Jesus’ teaching about eschatology (that is, the “Four Last Things”: Heaven, Hell, death, and judgement) is found at the end of His public ministry, shortly before Holy Week begins and Jesus approaches His own death. The Church proclaims Jesus’ teaching about the Last Things especially in the final weeks of the Church year, leading up to the feast of Christ the King.
However, today’s Gospel passage comes from Chapter 13 of Matthew, in the midst of His three years of public ministry. Here, also, Jesus makes clear the sort of judgment that will take place. The Lord does not use conditional language, but instead declares: “The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous”. This teaching is sobering, yet at the same time it highlights the importance of the One who offers wicked humans the gift of salvation during their earthly days.