Sunday, November 23, 2014

Word for the Day: Scattered

What a strange and glorious set of readings we have for the last Sunday before Advent, the feast with the grandest of titles:

Our Lord Jesus Christ, 
King of the Universe!

It would be easy for me to settle serenely into the assurance of Psalm 23, my favorite and maybe yours. It is so comforting with its verdant pastures and restful waters, my head anointed, my cup a-brimming.

But most of the rest of what we're going to hear at mass today is somewhere between challenging and deeply disturbing.

Ezekiel calls us scattered. We are sheep, of course, but not docile sheep gathered under the loving eye of our shepherd. We are scattered. Ezekiel says it again: scattered. Then he adds lost, strayed, and sick, in case you didn't get the memo.

Finally, he mentions the sleek and strong sheep but then—oops—Zeke mentions that they will be destroyed.

By the time we roll into Psalm 23, we all should be something unsettled.

We are scattered. As a people, Christian or otherwise, we don't stick together. As individuals, we are "all over the place." Can't think of a better word for how I feel many days—dashing, texting, doing four things at once, forgetting the one thing that matters—than scattered. 

Paul in 1st Corinthians offers hope of salvation: the resurrection of the dead, through Christ. Feels better now. Except that Paul adds that Christ "will destroy every sovereignty and every authority and power." Everything will be "subjected to him."

Doesn't sound like the gentle shepherd to me.

As it often does, the Gospel (Matthew 25: 31–46) offers the punch line. In that final judgment—in which the sheep and goats will be separated, and you know what happens to the goats—there will be a simple criterion of judgment. To paraphrase, Christ says,

"What you do for the least of my children, you do for me."

That's it. That's the secret of salvation on this Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe!

Otherwise, it's "off to eternal punishment" for you.

Do you think Pope Francis is on to something?

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