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The story about a mother of a six-year-old doing a drawing and painting can be a good way to kick off this reflection. The mother asks her boy, "What are you drawing, dear?" He replies, "I'm drawing God." Mom says, "That's very nice, dear, but you know, no one really knows what God looks like." The boys responds, "Mom, they will now know." The parable of the sheep and the goat presents us with what we shall know. How can we avoid this sad experience of saying, “If only I had known?”

What about sheep and goats?

Today is the last Sunday of the Church’s liturgical year, so, the parable is the discourse of Jesus about end times. Jesus uses the metaphor of a shepherd separating his animals at the end of the day’s work, hence conveying the picture in the Middle east where mixed flocks are separated one from the other. The use of sheep and goats here is not clear but they designate the fate of every human being for acts of charity (corporal works of mercy) done or for failure to use those opportunities as given. At the time of Jesus, both sheep and goat are useful. Whereas sheep provide wool and clothing, goats provide dietary staples of milk and cheese. Goat’s hair is equally used preferably to make tents because it shrinks in the heat and allows for ventilation in hot dry season. Jesus does not tell his audience the reason for making the goats look bad. However, He uses these two categories of animals to communicate the day of reckoning, the consequences of jeopardizing opportunities for kindness and compassion -”as long as you did (not) this to the least of my little ones, you did (not) it to me.”

Christ is King and Shepherd

In this parable, the King is enthroned, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.” Jesus, the Son of Man will sit enthroned as the “first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor. 15:20) Christ is the King to whom everything will be subject. Pilate says to Jesus, "You are a king, then!" Jesus responds, "You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (Jn. 18:37) We profess in the Creed about Christ’s kingship, “seated at the right hand of the Father, to judge the living and the dead.”

In the parable of the lost sheep (Matt. 18:10-14), Jesus shows that the Kingdom of God is accessible to all and that the shepherd goes out for the least of the sheep. He uses the example of a shepherd (God) who leaves the 99 others and searches high and low for the one lost sheep. The primary mission of Christ as King is shepherding, taking care of the hungry, clothing the naked, raising the dead, giving the true water of life to the thirsty, restoring the lost, and leading God’s people to the kingdom.

Our Had-I-known Moments

The King expects clear and simple things, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” Quite simple! These simple day-to-day actions point to our inter-human relationships -commissions and omissions. The surprising reactions in that gospel passage by either of the groups is rather shocking, “When did we see you…?” Have you faced that moment of surprise that produces a reaction that says, Me? That’s what happens here. Merely performing or not failing to perform simple, little acts of love can lead to such reaction. It can also be like our secondary/high school days when the report cards were issued to students with results that showed performance at the end of the term. You could see the various emotions on the faces of students. Some run around in excitement, show their results proudly to others. While some cry and show that desperation, “If only I had known.”

Faith asks for simple, practical things.

This last Sunday provides us with opportunity to evaluate what practical Christianity means. Do you see those in one need or the other? How does your faith move you into charity for the less privileged, the “least” of Christ’s brothers and sisters? Here in the US, it is appropriate that the Solemnity of Christ the King falls on the weekend of Thanksgiving. Technically, it is an opportunity to step back and celebrate with family and friends, to thank God for the numerous things in our lives. During these celebrations, we can also reflect on the conditions of those who have no food, no drink, no clothing, no medicine. We can reflect on the conditions of poverty in the lives of the less privileged. We can reflect on the practical implications of our faith.

There are starving persons. There are frail and elderly individuals confined in homes. There are the unemployed. There are grieving families. There are people with varying degrees of vulnerability around us who can be described as the “least” of the brothers and sisters of Christ. Do we see them? Do we see the need to help? Are we able to see Jesus in such persons?

What Jesus is asking of us to do is simple, not difficult. The Master asks only for simple things to get us into the kingdom. Mother Teresa once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” The sheep never do difficult things, rather, simple things that look infamous, and they are rewarded in the gospel. Think about it this way, the beneficiary of your charity are the poor and the needy. They receive support from you to solve their temporal needs. In turn, as the giver, you receive from them an opportunity tomake heaven. The little acts of charity pays off in the long run with these words from the King, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” When you do those little things, you glorify Christ the King in your life.

Let us take this opportunity now and be practical Christians. This feeling can be hard, “If only I had known.”

Readings: 1st- Ezk. 34:11-12, 15-17; 2nd- 1 Cor. 15:20-26, 28; Gospel- Matt. 25:31-46

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