Feast of Our Holy Father Clement, Pope of Rome
IT WAS MY intention to give you a respite from the works of injustice and to grant some leisure to your thoughts, so that you might carefully consider to what end your pursuit of material things has led you. You have acres and acres of arable land: fields and orchards, mountains and dells, rivers and springs. But what comes after this? Is not all that awaits you a six-foot plot of earth? Does not a small quantity of rocks and soil suffice to cover this mortal flesh? Why then do you toil? Why do you transgress? Why do you gather a fruitless harvest with your own hands? Would that your labors were only fruitless, and did not rather constitute fuel for the eternal fire.
Will you never rouse yourself from this stupor? Will you never regain consciousness? Will you never come to your senses? Will you not bring before your eyes the Judgment Seat of Christ? What will you say in your own defense, when all around you stand those whom you have treated unjustly, denouncing you before the righteous Judge? What then will you do? What advocates will you retain? What witnesses will you present? How will you sway the Judge who cannot be deceived? No fine speakers are there to defend you, no persuasiveness of speech to hoodwink the Judge. Neither flatterers, nor possessions, nor the burden of glory will follow you there. Without friends, without helpers, without supporters, without even a word in your own defense, you will be led forth in disgrace, with bowed head and downcast eyes, utterly forsaken and ashamed.
Wherever you turn your gaze, you will clearly behold the apparitions of your evil acts: here the tears of the orphan, there the groaning of the widow, elsewhere the poor whom you have trampled down, the servants whom you have brutalized, the neighbors whom you have treated outrageously. All your deeds will rise up before you; the wicked chorus of your wrongdoings will beset you on all sides. Just as the shadow follows the body, so also one’s sins closely follow the soul, and form a clear outline of one’s actions. There is thus no possibility of denial there; every mouth will be stopped, and especially that of the arrogant. Each person’s works will bear witness for themselves; without a word being spoken, they will make our deeds plain. How can I summon before your eyes the fearful things that await you? If indeed you hear and relent of your ways, then remember those days in which “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven” (Rom 1.18). Remember the glorious second coming of Christ, when we all will rise, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (Jn. 5.29). Then everlasting shame will be the portion of sinners, and “a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Heb. 10.27). Let all these things make you sad, and not the command of our Lord. How shall I move you? What shall I say? Do you not desire the Kingdom? Do you not fear hell? Where will healing be found for your soul? If these fearful visages do not move you, if these dazzling images do not compel you, then surely we are dealing with a heart of stone.
—St Basil the Great, On Social Justice