Sunday, 11/26/2017, Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King
The Prophecy of the Good Shepherd
First Reading Commentary: Ezekiel34:11-12, 15-17
Who can save us? The truth is that no one can save us and we cannot save ourselves. Only God can save us. Only He can be the shepherd that leads us to His Kingdom. God is always reminding us of that fact and in today’s reading from Ezekiel, which is a prophecy of Christ as the Good Shepherd, we are reminded once again.
Ezekiel 34 is all about God being our shepherd. It is all about God separating the good from the bad and leading the good into His Kingdom. It is a prophecy of all of the things that Christ said in Matthew 23:1-39 and Matthew 25:31-46 which is today's gospel.
Those who lead us in our faith are God’s ambassadors. They are given the responsibility of delivering God’s Word. God speaks to us in many ways both in and outside of the Church. There is no telling who God may use as an intermediary to speak to us and there is no telling when God may have something to say to us as individuals or as a group. But members of the clergy are given the responsibility of being God’s messengers.
Anytime a preacher says something or teaches something which is counter to the Word of God, they become a false prophet and these are the people that Christ criticizes in Matthew 23. If you take a look at Ezekiel 34:1-11, you will find that today’s prophecy is the result of God swearing to come against false prophets and save His sheep.
God promises to tend to us, rescue us from the dark, pasture us, bind up the injured, heal the sick and separate the sheep from the goats. In other words, God promises to never give up on us. He promises to take care of us providing for all of our needs. In promising to rescue us from the dark, God is promising to rescue us from the darkness of sin with His mercy and forgiveness. In telling us that He will separate the sheep from the goats, God is telling us that those with faith who believe in Him are the sheep that He will bring to Himself.
Think about it: As a shepherd tends his flock, the sheep stay together and follow him. If any of the sheep start to stray, the shepherd will go after that sheep and bring it back to the flock. So it is with us. We are the flock and God wants us to stay together. That’s important because each of us is an important part of the Mystical Body. Therefore, God will always be a Good Shepherd because the Mystical Body cannot be complete if anyone with faith becomes separated and goes astray.
Not Just Any King
Second Reading Commentary: 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Today we celebrate Jesus Christ the King and in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us why Jesus Christ is the King.
Paul begins by telling us that death came through man. This is because of the sin of Adam and we are reminded of Genesis 3:17-18 where God tells Adam that he is from dirt and to dirt he shall return. All of the pain and suffering that we experience in this life and the physical death that we must all experience from this life is a result of sin.
But everything associated with this life, including death, is only temporary. God never said that when we die to this life that it would be the end. To the contrary, God promised redemption in Genesis 3:15 before He even spoke to Adam about returning to dirt. That promise was partially fulfilled with the Resurrection of Christ.
It is because of Adam’s sin that we must all die to this life but it is because of the Resurrection of Christ that death is defeated. Christ is the first fruit and it is through Him that all who believe in Him will be among the first to enter the Kingdom.
Death however, will not be totally destroyed until all enemies of Christ are destroyed. For this reason, Paul tells us that death will be the last enemy to be destroyed and that will come on the last day. The absolute defeat of all enemies and the final destruction of death takes place in Revelations 20:11-15.
What I find interesting about the final destruction of death in Revelations is that it is also the final fulfillment of the promise made by God in Genesis 3:15 and in today’s prophecy from Ezekiel. In the final fulfillment, even death and Hades give up their dead and all those who have their names written in the book of life are taken into the Kingdom. In other words, God’s mercy and forgiveness is so complete and without limit, that even those who die in sin are brought into the Kingdom if their faith is with God.
Therefore, Jesus Christ is not just any king. He is a loving King, a saving King, a redeeming King and the King of Kings.
Be Counted Among the Sheep
Gospel Commentary: Matthew 25:31-46
In today’s gospel of the Judgment of the Nations, Jesus confirms the prophecy of Ezekiel and tells us what will happen on the last day at the final judgment. Jesus tells us that He will be on His throne, the angels will be with Him and that all nations will be assembled before Him for separation. The sheep on the right will inherit the Kingdom but the goats on the left will be cast into the eternal fire.
Jesus clearly speaks of judgment but it is not judgment that should capture our attention. It is the reward that awaits the sheep that should fill our hearts and strengthen our faith that should capture our attention because that’s what it is all about: being selected as one of the sheep because we want nothing more than to be with Jesus.
Jesus often uses few words to say many things but in this gospel, Jesus goes to great length to explain the reward of the sheep and the demise of the goats and what Jesus says is consistent with the Greatest Commandments. Jesus does not mention the Greatest Commandments in this gospel but it is very clear that the sheep will be those who obey them and the goats will be those who do not.
What Jesus describes is all about loving God and loving neighbor. If we love our neighbor, we will feed our hungry, give drink to those who are thirsty and provide clothing for those who have none. We will welcome the stranger which includes helping those who have no place to live. We will visit those in prison and when Jesus talks about those in prison, He also includes those who are sick and shut-in.
As individuals, many of us try to do these things but collectively as a society, we are failing. There is much more to being Pro Life than protecting the rights of the unborn and advocating against capital punishment. If we elect government leaders who are unwilling to commit themselves totally to implementing laws and policies which are designed to feed our hungry, care for our needy and our sick, provide housing for our homeless and welcome the immigrant, especially the refugee, then we are electing goats.
If we love our neighbor, we love God. If we love God, we love our neighbor. We cannot truly love one without loving the other. This is why Jesus tells us that when we care for any of the least of us, we care for Him and when we do that, we are counted among His sheep.