The Sheep and the Goats

Matthew 25: 31-46
Lv 19:1-2,11-18 / Psa 19

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’
(Matthew 25:45)

Take care that you are not deceived:
It’s not enough that we believe...
The measure that we will receive
From God depends on what we give.

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory with all His angels, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you invited me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and invited you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, 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 no drink, a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, ill and in prison and you did not care for me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Reflection

“Born again” Christians propagate the notion that our passage to heaven is already assured if we just declare Jesus as our Lord and Savior. According to them, by faith alone we are already saved. Their favorite passage in the Bible is St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, chap. 3, v.26, which says: “…God justifies everyone who believes in Jesus.” And yet in the same letter, St. Paul also stated: “…now you must present yourselves as slaves of righteousness for your sanctification.” (Rom.6:19) He also wrote that “…each one of us will get what he deserves for the things he did, both good or evil.” St. James was quite explicit when he wrote that faith without good works is useless. (James 2:20). “A body dies when it is separated from the spirit, and in the same way faith is dead if it is separated from good works” (James 2:26). Good works indeed are what distinguish the sheep from the goats.

In our first reading today, it says, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy” (Lev.19:1-2). We can not be holy by merely believing in God’s love and mercy. He wants us to make His Son as our model by following His example, doing good to all who came to Him for help. Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mt. 19:21). For it is written, “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out to God and will not be heard” (Prov. 21:13).

For us Catholics, being holy also means receiving the sacraments that Jesus instituted and His Church dispenses for the faithful’s sanctification. We believe that the first sacrament, Baptism, is the mercy of God that washes away the stain of original sin. But sinful as our nature is, God has also given us the grace of reconciliation, which is the sacrament of Penance. Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”? (Prov. 20:9) “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all wrongdoing” (1Jn 1:8-9). Then, as His final act of love, Jesus gave us Himself in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. In obedience to the Father’s mandate for us to be holy, let us receive our Lord Jesus in the Holy Mass as often as we can, especially during this time of lent. And may God’s grace dwell in all our homes.

Father God, You have done everything possible to ensure our heavenly inheritance, and yet many of us still remain complacent in our faith, or simply too lazy or distracted to do our best to be worthy of Your most precious gift. Forgive us, Lord, for our weaknesses, and let Your Holy Spirit enlighten us to the truth of the Gospel as Jesus taught us. Amen.

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