Matthew 25: 31-46
Sunday Reflection by Sister Roseanne Murphy, SNDdeN
As we come to the end of our liturgical year, we find the images of Christ as Shepherd and as King. In the first reading for today, the prophet Ezekiel portrays an image of Christ as a loving, generous and thoughtful shepherd, eager to heal the injured sheep, find them when they are lost and give them rest when they are weary. The reading ends with a gentle warning as the Lord God will judge between the rams and the goats representing those who are the “sleek and the strong” who are destroyed. And yet, the reading is followed by the beloved Psalm 23 beginning with, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” And further we read, “Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life.” The readings continue to gain momentum.
In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that Christ, who has overcome death, must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” And when that happens, then God will be “all in all.” So, even though we knew it all along, we are reminded that we all are going to be “brought to life” after Christ comes again. Will that be the time when Christ will have destroyed every sovereignty and authority and power? It is a section of scripture that is as tantalizing as it has been throughout the centuries, as to when and how this prophesy will come about. Over the centuries, people have taken this saying literally and have predicted Christ’s coming in their own time. There are those who are convinced that Christ’s coming will happen in our time. No one really knows but we each know that our end time will come.
The gospel spells this all out for us. Whether “the end” for each of us will be but a relatively few years away or when “The Son of Man comes in his glory, when he will sit upon his glorious throne” with all the nations assembled before him, Christ gives us the criteria of our being considered a member of the sheep or the goats. It makes for a solitary meditation to reflect slowly on what Jesus describes of those whose lives embody the characters of the sheep and those of the goats. No wonder Christ lets the “sheep” know they are blessed by the Father. Those whose kindness and generosity fed the hungry and clothed the naked, cared for the poor, the sick and the dying will “go off to eternal life.” Reading the qualities of the sheep easily brings to mind persons we have known and loved. They were ministering to Christ all along whether they knew it or not. No wonder Christ lets the “sheep” know they are blessed. It is chilling to read about those who did not reach out in kindness and love to their neighbors and ignored those who represented Christ. They heard Christ say, “depart from me” for “what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”
As we enter into the beginning of the new liturgical year, we are given a chance to ponder the words of the readings of the Feast of Christ the King. We will begin anew the cycle of the birth and death of Christ and perhaps the very best way we can use this “new time” is to come back often to the readings of today that remind us of what Christ has said about our goal and our call. The gospel reading could easily be considered one of the most important sections of scripture for our time. We know that the qualities of the “sheep” are desperately needed in our world today. The readings of this feast are a clarion call to all of us. While it would be a “slight” exaggeration to say that the scripture readings today are more important than ever, at least we can agree that they are needed as much today as at any other time in history. Christ keeps calling out to us in scripture. We know what Christ asks of us. We have many chances to fulfill his dreams for us. Meditating on these readings might bring us closer to one day hearing the words, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me. Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Mt. 25: 31-46
Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who 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 drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, 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 no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
The Gospel of the Lord