Christ our King gives us freedom to be selfish goats…or gentle, sharing sheeps
Being subject to anyone else is something most people fight against. We want to be free to do what we like. This is one of the “blessings” we think we will receive after “escaping” from home when we think we have reached “maturity”.
However, after living away from home for a few years, and making mistakes, we usually reach a higher level of maturity and recognise that home was a safe place (we hope), and school was good because it gave stability and certainty about what to do/ where to be.
I pray that your experience of “home” is that you are free to come and go as an adult: that is the freedom that God gives us: Christ the King is not a tyrant.
As much as we often crave freedom, deep down, we desperate want to belong and connect with people who love us. I think this is the attitude we need to develop in our mind as we reflect on the First & Second Readings. The most important thing to remember is: God LOVES US.
We see this coming through in the First reading, especially, where Jesus wants to be our Shepherd. We can respond by running away to chase “freedom”, or we can respond with peace, as the Responsorial Psalm invites us.
The problem with running away is that we become slaves to others: desperate for good comments and praise from other people who will probably use us.
The great thing about remaining faithful to God (call it slavery?), is that God never kills us if, at times, we are rebellious or naughty, or just plain weak, and fail to live a holy life.
With Christ as our King, we have nothing to fear, except the fear of losing God: we’ve been given the gift of freedom, to leave if we wish.
Quite the opposite is true if we become part of a criminal gang: when you try to leave they kill you; as a member you must do what the leader commands or they kill you.
Having Christ as our King gives us the freedom to return if we choose to: and, often, God comes searching for us – like a good shepherd when a sheep gets lost – to lead us back home. My fear is that when we go too far from God, we don’t know how to come back, because we are too busy blaming everyone else, instead of taking a share of the blame for our sadness.
Why else, as people leave the Churches, is depression and suicide increasing? Without God in our life, we begin to feel like a small boat on the ocean with no anchor.
The end of the Church year symbolises the end of our life on earth: sometimes there can be a sense of fear and worry: at the end will I be chosen or rejected?
The difference between sheep and goats is this: the goats are impatient, leading the pack and always looking for food for themselves. The sheep are much slower, also looking for food, but they have time to look around and see each other. They are more communal.
If we think correctly, the Gospel readings, today, can be taken in a very positive way. Not once does Jesus ask the sheep or goats what sins they had committed. God only separated them by their actions: giving food/drink/ clothes, visiting the sick/prisoners.
This Gospel passage tells us what the criterion will be for judgement on the last day: We serve our king by serving each other.
The moral teachings of the Church are important, because they help form us into sheep, rather than goats. An immoral life creates goats: selfish, unwilling to be subject to anyone/ anything!
One of the important features of the Gospel is the issue of personal service: not just giving money to a charity and saying “I’ve done my part;” but actually having personal encounters and experiences of service/ compassion/ hospitality. Here are some everyday examples:
Hungry: Many young people are hungry for love: do we see their need, do we give attention?
Fathers, especially: know that your sons are desperate for your blessing/approval.
Thirsty: Do I help people who ask for assistance – or am I always just too busy? Spend time with the children, and they will have time for us when we’re old.
Naked: Do we stand up for people who are humiliated in our workplace/ home/ school? If we don’t fight for the weak now, who will fight for us when we are old & weak?
Prison: Do we free people who have hurt us, by offering them forgiveness? Especially those in our family where divisions may have occurred?
Let’s take away our fear of God’s judgement by serving others around us at home and at work: In that way we bring more beauty into our world, and joy into our personal lives.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI