31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne,32 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.33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.34Then 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.35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’37Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’41 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.42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,43a 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.’44 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?’45He 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.’46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
November 20, 2014
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
11For thus says the Lord God: Look! I myself will search for my sheep and examine them.12As a shepherd examines his flock while he himself is among his scattered sheep, so will I examine my sheep. I will deliver them from every place where they were scattered on the day of dark clouds.
Psalm 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6
The Lord, Shepherd and Host
1A psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
2In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
LORD, WHEN DID WE SEE YOU HUNGRY OR… ?
We have arrived at the last Sunday of Cycle A. Matthew has led us throughout most of our celebrations, and the liturgy we celebrate today is, in a sense, a recapitulation of Jesus’ invitation to follow him and enter with him into the Kingdom of God. Three images are put together to describe Jesus: “shepherd,” an image previously applied to God himself (Psalm 23); “Son of Man,” which has a number of messianic connotations we cannot study now; and “king,” used to stress God’s sovereignty over the whole world, and specially over his chosen people. There is a certain confusion in the way Matthew uses the titles in today’s text, and sometimes it is difficult to decide to whom he is referring. In any case, the “Son of Man” has come to call all nations and judge them at that final moment, whose precise day and hour no one knows. That judgement may fill all of us with fear and anguish. On what grounds will we be judged? Not on the Law, for “the nations” do not have the Law, a gift granted only to Israel. Not on human justice, for no legal code is invoked or mentioned. Not in obedience to God, for the word as such is never mentioned in the text. Not on the intention of doing a good deed to earn merits or rewards. Those who are praised, called “blessed by my Father,” did not even know they were doing “the right thing,” they just did what they considered was needed by those who suffered at the moment. As for those who were rebuked and deemed “accursed,” they did not violate any law or precept, nor did they refuse those who suffered; they simply ignored them. In both cases, “surprise” is the word that could define their reaction when hearing their sentence. No one previously knew the consequences of their actions or omissions. Perhaps, as usual, the context will give us the clue to understand all these details that do not seem to fit into a clearly logical design. The passage started by saying that the one who is to sit on his glorious throne to judge all nations is “the Son of Man.” And the passage is followed immediately by one of Jesus’ announcements of his passion: “…in two days’ time it will be Passover, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified” (26:2). The “Son of Man” who will judge us is the same who was unjustly judged and “suffered under Pontius Pilate,” so he knows what it means to be subjected to the severe look of those who can make decisions over the life or death of others. He is not a high priest “unable to sympathise with our weakness, but someone who has similarly been tested in every way” (Hebrews 4:14-16). He is, in fact, the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep and lays down his life for them (John 10:1-18). Curiously, even if, as I said, there might be some confusion about the identities of “shepherd,” “king,” “Son of Man,” there is not the slightest doubt about another identification: the one existing with any of these “least brothers” of his, who hungered, were naked or sick, in prison or in a foreign land. They are Jesus himself. The whole passage is, then, a double calling. We are to remain alert, but not to the coming of the end of the world or any kind of terrible catastrophe about to happen. We are, instead, to have our eyes and ears wide open to discover Jesus in the suffering brothers and sisters who are near us and for whom Jesus demands compassion and solidarity. But there is also a calling to confidence and hope at the moment when we will face a merciful and compassionate judge.
In a liturgical sense, we have come to “New Year’s Eve.” Next Sunday we will celebrate the first day of Advent. The first words from Jesus we will read in the fragment from Mark’s Gospel will be “Be watchful! Be alert!” We will have time to reflect on that subject which these past Sundays have already anticipated. Today, let our Meditatio be a humble look at the year that is about to end. Let us be objective and give thanks for the good things the Lord has helped us to accomplish. Let us recognize and pray for the forgiveness of our shortcomings, flaws and sins. But, above all, let us pray for a spirit of hope and confidence in the Good Shepherd who knows us, loves us, and will always lead us to the Father throughout this coming New Year.
Let us pray for ourselves who are so concerned about fulfilling all the commandments, rules and statutes of the Law: that we may be aware of the “one and only commandment” Jesus gave us, that of loving God and one another, and putting into practice his spirit of service, solidarity and compassion. Let us pray for political and social leaders, responsible for the great problems of hunger, poverty, health and education: that, regardless of their religious or ideological beliefs, they may work for peace and take the necessary steps to make this a more humane and just world.
Have a look at your local environment and try to discover those in whom you can find Jesus suffering from hunger or some of the other miseries mentioned in the parable. See how you can bring realistic and generous help and hope to those in distress.
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being.22For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,23but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;24then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death,
Reflections written by Rev. Fr. Mariano Perrón, Roman Catholic priest, Archdiocese of Madrid, Spain
Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition copyright 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.