Make Your Choice
Sunday Homily for November 23, 2008
Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (34A)
By Fr. John Foley, S. J.
It is the last Sunday of the Church year. Next week we will begin the new Church year, starting with Advent, our waiting for the birth of Jesus into the world.
On this last Sunday of the year, the Church appropriately celebrates the feast of Christ the King. Here is the story.
First, God has continually sought out his people, inviting them to a covenant relationship. When the “shepherds of Israel” let God’s sheep scatter over the face of the earth, and when they made a feast of the sheep instead of feeding them)*, God says the words of the First Reading. “I myself will look after and tend my sheep. The injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.”
God’s care for his people is exquisite, and it is the foundation of all our belief. He shepherds for us today in the same way.
The Responsorial Psalm, “The Lord is My Shepherd” is used here simply as a reply to the First Reading. To paraphrase, “We see that God is shepherding us, as he promised. Goodness and kindness are all about us. God lets us walk beside restful waters, through green pastures.” We are filled with gratitude.
But people of different generations sometimes remembered and sometimes forgot God’s love. The ones who forgot it filled their lives with other gods, whichever seemed most attractive. Idols, these are called.
So, in the Second Reading, St. Paul tells us about Christ, who is God’s shepherding made flesh. Although death and sorrow and sin have been on the rampage, Christ brings the First Reading’s light and peace and wholeness.
Then the Gospel, in a parable, tells us who will receive this light and peace. The parable says that not everyone has actually been among God’s beloved herd of sheep. Some people have been goats instead.
How do you know who you are? The standard is extremely clear. Have you cared for the hungry? Have you given water to the thirsty? What about welcoming the stranger, and giving clothes to those with none and what about visiting people in prison? This is what God did in the First Reading. It is what Jesus did in his life on earth. It is the loving duty he has entrusted to us who are his body, his band of shepherds. If you have joined this group, then you are one of the sheep who have received Christ's love and who are very grateful.
But maybe you or I have never taken time to care for Christ’s least brother or sister.
If we keep on that way, if we insist on being goats, we should not be surprised at the end of time when God says, “You never did pass on to others the care I gave to you. You did not let me into your life. If you had, your gratitude would have led you to others! I would love to shepherd you even now, but all I can do is affirm the choice you have made with your life. You have chosen to live without me, your God, and I will respect your choice.”
This is how a real King acts. He respects and honors his subjects’ needs and desires. It imposes a duty on us. We have to ask ourselves which side we are on right now, before it is too late.
*See Ezekiel 34: 1-10.