Clear criteria divide sheep from goats

Kathleen Giffin

WORD MADE FLESH

Christ the King – November 23, 2014
Ezekiel 34.11-12, 15-17 | Psalm 23 | 1 Corinthians 15.20-26, 28 | Matthew 25.31-46
November 17, 2014

With the feast of Christ the King, we come to the end of the liturgical year and our last consideration of end things before returning to the expectation of Advent.

The separation of the sheep from the goats, the Gospel passage chosen for this year, is the most sobering and challenging of Scriptures. It is Matthew's account of the final judgment and the criteria that will divide all people between those who will enter God's kingdom and those who will go to endless suffering.

It is a simple criterion; either we respond to those in need, to those who suffer, or we don't. We either have compassion that is put into action to the extent we are able or we don't.

Just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me. – Matthew 25.40

'Just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.'

Matthew 25.40

Those condemned are not condemned for bad things they did or for their lack of faith; they are condemned for what they did not do to help and bring comfort to those who needed their help.

GRACE AND WORKS

While it is true, as Paul wrote in Ephesians 2, that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works, it is also true, as James 2 states, that faith that does nothing in practice is thoroughly lifeless.

Jesus, describing the fate of those who call him Lord but who did not feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the stranger, makes clear that lifeless faith separates us from God.

It used to be that we really could only respond to the hungry, thirsty and oppressed in our communities. We couldn't see the others, far away, and had little way of helping.

Not so today. Unless we choose not to see what is going on in the rest of the world, we do know about the hungry and oppressed, the refugee, those without water, those without hope. We know and we can help.

DEBT OF JUSTICE

Thomas Aquinas wrote that "whatever a man has in superabundance is owed, of natural right, to the poor for their sustenance . . . the bread which you withhold belongs to the hungry: the clothing you shut away, to the naked: and the money you bury in the earth is the redemption and freedom of the penniless."

The Catechism states it another way: "When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours, . . . we are paying a debt of justice" (2446).

So I look around my comfortable house at the unnecessary extras I have, and consider what I spent money on in the last month that also was unnecessary, and wonder, was I taking bread from the mouths of the hungry? Clearly I must change how I think about the goods of the earth that I possess.

As I said, a most challenging gospel; and now my challenge is to remember, to not turn my thoughts and my eyes away, to let my heart feel for those in need and respond in the ways I am able.

(Kathleen Giffin kgif@telus.net)