“I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself
will give them rest,” says the Lord GOD.
(from Ez 34:11-12, 15-17)
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
(from Ps 23)
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, 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
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his
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
(from Mt 25:31-46)
the Word …
Today is the Feast of Christ the King
(Christ the King Sunday), observed in the Roman Catholic Church and
many Protestant denominations. And frankly, it’s an image of Christ
with which I struggle. I always think of the story when Jesus,
afraid the crowds will try to make him king, withdraws to the
mountains. (Jn 6:15) Is being a king, bedecked in fine robes and
gold, what Jesus wanted? I don’t think so.
But the image portrayed in the
readings today provides another view of Christ as king: a shepherd,
a guide, a protector, a calm and restful presence for those willing
to follow his lead; those willing to heed, not the golden kings of
the world, but a simple, compassionate shepherd-king; those ready to
go out with him to find and tend to those who are lost.
No matter how many times I encounter
today’s passage from Matthew, I am still in awe of the words Christ
speaks. They shake me to my core and make me take a good hard look
at my sinfulness—not the traditional “thou shall not” sins of
commission--but my sins of omission: the times I have turned away
from the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill, the
prisoner; the times I have allowed the glitter and bright lights of
the world blind me to the need right in front of me.
This is exactly the lesson Pope
Francis is trying to get across to us: it is not that the law, and
the “thou shalt nots” don’t matter—Jesus told us he did not come to
abolish the law. And it’s not that the goats in this story sin
because they fail to recognize Christ in the poor—remember, “When
did we see you?” was the question asked by both the sheep and
the goats. The goats’ sin is being unaware, being blind. The sheep
inherit the kingdom by doing out of the goodness of their hearts—not
out of obligation, not out of a promise of eternal life. They give
and serve out of compassion and love. Just like Christ, our
I encourage you to take time and read
today’s Scripture with new, open eyes. Pay attention to the words
and what they mean in and for your life. Take them to heart as we
embark on our journey to Bethlehem next Sunday. Don’t let the bling
and bright lights of the shopping season blind you. Find hope and
joy in the opportunities we have to serve. Praise and glorify
Christ, our compassionate Shepherd-King, by your life.
"I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood." (Lk
gospel story is about quality versus quantity. It’s also about trust
in God. Jesus is not judging the wealthy who put more money into the
treasury. They may be very good, generous people, but we know they
give from their surplus. They are not wanting for their next meal.
The widow gives from her poverty. She has to trust that God will
provide for her. The amount is not what matters; it is the quality
of the gift. Ask yourself: What. where is my “poverty?” Time?
Courage? Tolerance? What would it look like if I were to give from
that place where I am poor? Do I trust God will provide what I need?
will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be
powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and
awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky."
How many times have we seen such calamities occur? It’s no wonder
people continue to predict the end of the world and the coming of
God’s kingdom. How are we to interpret Jesus’ words 2,000 years
later when eclipses, famines, and earthquakes happen on a regular
basis? Perhaps we need to go back to his words from Luke 17: “The
kingdom of God is among you.” God’s kingdom is here, today. Right
now. Each day, we’re called to give an accounting of how we are
living in the kingdom. Jesus warns us later this week: Don’t be
caught unaware, drowsy, complacent. Don’t sit around waiting for
“the big one” to start preparing. God’s kingdom is here.
“This is the
writing that was inscribed… MENE, God has numbered your kingdom and
put an end to it; TEKEL, you have been weighed on the scales and
5: 1-6, 13-17, 23)
day before Thanksgiving in the US, so forgive me, but I couldn’t
resist the pun about being weighed on the scales and being found
wanting! Pun aside, there is a serious message in this passage.
Daniel is reading “the writing on the wall” for King Belshazzar who
has defiled the temple vessels. His idolatry of gold, silver, and
fine food and drink have made him a glutton for worldly gods. He is
found wanting in things that matter in God’s kingdom. This is not to
say we shouldn’t celebrate and give thanks for God’s bounty and
partake of that bounty. But as you approach the season of Advent,
take some time to assess how you might fare being weighed of God’s
scales: mercy, compassion, generosity, hospitality to the stranger,
and working for justice.
“’How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!’
But not everyone has heeded the good news;
Thus faith comes from what is heard….But I ask, did they not hear?
talking about the Jews who have failed to heed the Good News, and
also of the beauty of the disciples who have faced hardships
preaching Christ. He says, “Faith comes from what is heard.”
When Jesus preached the Good News, he had a great grasp on the
audience to which he was speaking. With the elders, he engaged in
rabbinical debate. When he spoke to the poor, he told parables the
people could relate to and understand. He was able to reach people
where they were and so give them a chance to really hear and listen
to what he was saying. As we go about preaching—mostly by our
actions—we will not reach everyone. But let’s model our approach
after Jesus by meeting others where they are, not where we think
they ought to be.
Dec 1: This (one) had eyes like a man, and a
mouth that spoke arrogantly. (Dn 7:2-14)
visions in the Book of Daniel are as pleasant and relatable as those
in Revelations! It take a lot of weeding for me to tease out meaning
not tied to the books’ historical context (2nd century,
BC, late 1st century, AD, respectively.) But the phrase,
“a mouth that spoke arrogantly,” is a theme that runs
throughout all of Scripture. The haughty, the arrogant, the
boastful...they may rage and they may reign for a time, but in the
end, their ilk will be defeated by the Son of Man. Good News and
words of hope, indeed!
Beware your hearts do not
become drowsy from… the anxieties of daily life.
Yes, I’ve left out the carousing and drunkenness. Even as we enter
the season to eat, drink and be merry, I’d guess most of you don’t
fall prey to much carousing. But I don’t know many who escape the
anxieties of daily life. Be good to yourself as we enter Advent, a
special time of waiting in hope. Be present to the light shining
afar in the darkness of daily worries and tasks so that you will be
ready to greet the (infant) Son of Man.