SUNDAY REFLECTION - Sunday, November 26th, 2017

EVERYONE A SHEPHERD

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Matt. 25:31  Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that 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 something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me 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 nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The gospel writers leave no room for doubt. Jesus is entirely devoted to the people who need help. He cannot pass them by. No one's suffering is foreign to him. He identifies with the smallest and the most helpless, and does whatever he can for them. Compassion is the most important thing for him. That is the only way to be like God. "Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate".

We should not be surprised that when he speaks of the final judgement, Jesus presents compassion as the ultimate and decisive criterion by which our lives and our identification with him will be judged.

The religion that pleases God most is help for people who suffer.

Jose A. Pagola
REFLECTION

This judgement scene contains surprises for us. In it nobody is condemned for doing wrong, but for his or her failure to do good. Our Christian duty can sometimes be described as the avoidance of sin. That is a very negative attitude. Jesus is telling us that being his disciple is a positive choice to do good. After all we are made in the image and likeness of God. God is love. God is the good shepherd, as today’s psalm reminds us. It is one of the most popular of all the psalms, one that has given strength and comfort to people throughout the ages.

Ezekiel, in today’s first reading, describes how a good shepherd acts. The good shepherd keeps all in view, rescues the scattered, shows them where to rest, brings back the stray, bandages the wounded, makes the weak strong, watches over them all. Our gospel tells us that we will be judged on how we also have been good shepherds.

The aim of Christian living is not simply me-centred (about my personal sanctification), but also other-centred (responding to the needs of others). Our own sanctification takes place through our response to the needy. We also benefit when we reach out to others. What happens to us when we get all caught up in ourselves? Is life not better, and often more enjoyable, when we can look beyond ourselves to others. A friend of mind had a phrase, “People wrapped up in themselves make very small parcels”. How true that is.

The story present an image of a society in which relationships at all levels are governed by the law of love. That was the way that Jesus lived and he told his disciples, and us, to follow him. This challenges us to move beyond our comfort zone and reach out to those in need. We each do this in the context of our own circumstances and area of influence. We can ask ourselves, what are the needs we see in our own extended family or neighbourhood? How can I make a difference here?

As a Eucharistic community we fail to “recognise the body of Christ”
(1 Cor 11:30), when we do not relate to one another in a loving and sensitive way. Pope Benedict XV said “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is essentially fragmented” (Deus Caritas Est No.14). “We don’t need to wait for the judgement. Right now are we coming near or turning away from those who suffer? Right now are we coming near or turning away from Christ.” (J.A. Pagola)

John Byrne OSA (Paulist Press)

“King” is a foundational metaphor in the Bible, which in ordinary usage suggests power and glory. But even in the ancient biblical tradition, there are two great modifications. According to an Old Testament vision, a king is meant to be a shepherd to his people, a true shepherd who cares for and who knows and even loves his sheep. According to a New Testament vision, Jesus our king rules paradoxically by loving service, humility and the gift of himself. This example and teaching of Jesus has lost none of its power today.

Kieran O'Mahony - tarsus.ie