It is radically true, i.e. by an ontological and not merely ‘moral’ or psychological necessity, that whoever does not love the brother whom he ‘sees’, also cannot love God whom he does not see, and that one can love God whom one does not see only by loving one’s visible brother lovingly.
Karl Rahner (Love and Power, By Michael J. Perry) p.79
The readings for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe can be found here.
This Gospel reading, where the sheep are separated from the goats is commonly referred to as “the judgement of the nations.” I can’t help reading these Gospel verses without feeling some regrets from my past. We are going to turn that feeling around today.
I was a freshman in college and I had declared Theology as my major. One of the my first memories from my that year was a welcoming ceremony where a few of the freshmen willing to participate were offered the opportunity to choose songs and a Gospel reading. The songs would be sung by the freshmen, but the Gospel would be read by the priest who was to be our freshman year moderator.
I was eager, and later some of my classmates would admit pushy. While the other freshmen were lost trying to think of a Gospel reading, I was only too willing to look like I knew what I was talking about, so I suggested Matthew 25:31-46. I didn’t say it in those words. I named it the story of the separation of the goats from the sheep.
I was raised a traditional Catholic, much like my freshman classmates, so I was mostly unfamiliar with the Bible having never read it. I received a Bible with my name printed on the cover for my confirmation, but the spine was barely cracked. I could only remember one story from the Gospels and that was the judgement of the nations. I didn’t even know what Gospel it was in, let alone chapter and verse. My classmates agreed that this reading would be a good one mostly because they couldn’t remember a Gospel story either.
When we presented our songs and Gospel reading to the priest moderator he looked at us with displeasure. The songs would be accepted but the Gospel reading, he insisted, had to be changed. Because I had suggested it and it was rejected I felt stupid and embarrassed. My classmates simply saw that we just needed another Gospel reading.
I felt that my classmates would see me as the guy who was studying Theology but knew nothing of the Bible. When you are 18 and have a lot to learn. Some learning comes from the classroom and other learning comes from life experience. I was relieved my classmates only thought I was pushy.
The priest didn’t feel this Gospel was appropriate because the welcoming ceremony was to be a celebration of a new chapter in the lives of the students, and their parents, so final judgement seemed rather the end and not the beginning. He was going to deliver a speech and tie in the Gospel we chose, so something more welcoming was in order. I believe that he missed the point of the Gospel.
Today I am a bit more knowledgeable in the Bible, having more than 30 years to improve on my study. I would argue that this Gospel is perfect for welcoming a freshman class. Jesus’ message in the Gospel is how to prepare yourself for God’s kingdom. College freshman are preparing themselves for entering the professional world. Remembering, as they focus on their profession, a part that focus must be on the needs of our community.
When students begin to doubt I tell them to go to the Catholic Worker or the homeless shelter and volunteer. It is there that they will be in the company of committed Catholics who serve and pray. It is there that they will meet the true Church.
– Lawrence Cunningham (Things Seen and Unseen: A Catholic Theologian’s Notebook [Sorin Books, 2010])
Discipleship is the key to understanding the Gospel reading. Care for the needy is part of discipleship. The intrinsic nature of faith is care for the needy, in every detail. There is no separation between faith in Jesus and caring for the needs of our community. Our faith leads to action.
If you take away one thing from this homily it should be that the judgement of the nations is not meant to be some futuristic last day scenario, but a recipe for preparing us for the kingdom of God.
At the time the Gospel was written the poor and needy were considered to have done something to bring about their troubles. The Jewish leaders believed that they were blessed by God and the poor were not.
Much like those Jewish leaders in Matthew’s time, people still believe that the correct ritual or prayers will secure the blessings of God. Jesus tells us that the formula is simple; care for the needy.
I would like to turn you to a Website where Father Bob Maguire is offering somebody a chance to win happiness.
“Third prize is one of 5 flat screen TV’s. Second prize is an amazing 5 night stay at one of the ritziest, coolest hotel chains around. But it’s the First prize that’s interesting. First prize is ‘happiness – guaranteed. Or more specifically the winner will be awarded a ‘Week volunteering in a Soup Kitchen’. Yes first prize is a volunteering for a week, in one of Father Bob’s Soup Kitchens. The winner will be helping others by serving up meals to the homeless’ – and in the process they’ll be making themselves happier – guaranteed.”
There is a video that goes along with the contest.
In our world today this contest may seem like a gimmick, but it is on target with the Gospel for this Sunday. I pray for your happiness.