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A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Gospel Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus said to his disciples, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he
will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people
one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right
hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed
by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and
you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed
me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you
visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty
and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or
naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the
king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my
family, you did it to me.’
Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire
prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave
me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing,
sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or
sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did
not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment,
but the righteous into eternal life.”


While today's feast is called The Solemnity of Christ the King, each reading employs images of shepherds and shepherding. Each offers insight into what shepherding means, not just in physical terms but also in terms of a worldview. The image of a shepherd was a metaphor for kingship in ancient Israel and throughout the Near East. Ezekiel (First Reading) who was the prophet of Jewish refugees in Babylonia depicts God as a shepherd gathering in the scattered sheep. God is a seeker after the strays, the injured and the unwell.
He also knows how to shepherd the sleek and the strong. In this reading we also detect a reference to judgment between the sheep and goats. Psalm 23 (Res. Ps.) represents shepherding as an act of accompaniment; God working within the community as its members bear each other up in evil times. The Psalmist describes God's role, showing how accompaniment becomes deliverance. For Matthew, the shepherd sorts out those who opt for the kingdom and those who opt out, the sheep and goats. Fritz Etchenberg in his woodcut, "The Christ of the Breadlines", depicts Jesus as the central figure in a line of homeless and hungry men and we ask today where we might stand? Jesus examines how people responded to the dispossessed during their lives.
Those judged to be honorable and those judged to be dishonorable give the same response in the Gospel, " Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you or thirsty and gave you to drink...?" The honorable did the right thing, not because they saw Jesus, they admit as much. They simply saw and responded to people in need. Our tendency to blame poverty on the poor makes it hard for us to take this passage seriously.
When we profess Christian faith we profess that the dispossessed - the ones left out of the marketplace - the disposable ones - actually matter. The market may not have a place for their particular skills, but God finds them invaluable. According to Matthew, the closest we can come to a face-to-face encounter with Jesus is to be fully present to the poor and marginalised. The Last Judgment is about God shepherding us into the finality of our choices. Once there, we may gain the capacity to accompany others and inherit the kingdom, having learnt it from the Dispossessed One. Today's Gospel calls us to love, share, and feed, welcome and clothe one another. When we do we will discover that Jesus is truly present in all our brothers and sisters.

Kevin Lyon
Archdeacon of Glendalough


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