Fr. Charles Irvin
SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING – [A] 21NOV93
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46
Parables are teaching devices used by rabbis for instructional purposes. The wonderful thing about a parable is that we can identify ourselves with one or more of the characters in the story.
Read one or hear one and it’s sort of like seeing your self reflected back, perhaps as in a mirror with some fuzziness, not with a whole lot of precision, but the general image is there. “This one’s about me” is the usual reaction.
You’ve just now heard one of the most famous of all of the parables used by Jesus. There are those on the right, and those on the left; there are the sheep and the goats, the saved and the damned.
But everyone in each group is surprised! When, they ask, did we treat you, or not treat you, in these ways? And Jesus then tells them.
What about you? Where do you see yourself in the story? Do you belong to those that care, the ones on the right, or those who simply didn’t have enough time to be bothered, those on the left? I daresay that you, like me, find yourself in both camps. We’ve given of our time, our treasure, and our talent – and we’ve withheld them, depending upon a number of factors, some of which we’d be ashamed to identify.
But there’s another group that we overlook. The parable’s message is so simple that we fail to see its big point. There where those who helped, those who couldn’t be bothered, and there were those who needed help!
Let me ask you this question, and it’s a big one. Perhaps your salvation hangs on it’s answer. When have you seen yourself as one who needed help? The answer is awfully important because Jesus identified Himself as one of those. And He didn’t identify Himself as one among those, no! He identified Himself as existing in them, as living in them! He was born poor and helpless, born in need and died in need. He lived and moved and had His being in need. And on the Day of Judgement the surprised will discover Him there.
Have you discovered your being in His? Have you admitted that you exist in need, that you’re not self-sufficient, that you`re on spiritual welfare, and that you and Jesus find each other in need?
That’s the big point of this parable – and it’s always missed! At the Last Judgment Jesus will be found in those who were in need. These are mine, and I am theirs, and they are in me, and I live in them. Jesus did not speak of them in the third person. No, He spoke of them in the first person.
And lets be honest with each other here. Isn’t it true that in most of the major instances in our life when we have refused to admit that we don’t have the answers, when we’ve refused to admit that we might be wrong, when we’ve refused to admit that we need our wife’s help, our husband’s help, and yes, even our children’s help, we’ve gotten into a whole lot of trouble? Isn’t it precisely true that a whole lot of trouble, pain, hurt, and estrangement have come to us when we’ve been arrogant, stubborn, and have refused to admit that we need help?
The great poet John Donne wrote a famous poem that I’m sure you’ve all read, called “No Man Is An Island“. No one of us is self-sufficient. No one of us is a god or a goddess (in spite of our own interior opinion of ourselves). You need my help, and I need your help. You need your spouse’s help, and even your children’s help, and they need yours.
Hell on earth enters the scene when either you or one of the characters in your life refuses to admit that simple, basic truth, and refuses to care. Whenever you encounter that, you get a taste of damnation.
So which group DO you belong to in the parable? Just how DO you identify yourself in it? And could it be true that you just might have to change how your identify yourself not only in the parable but in real life? In your relationship with those around you?
Perhaps this is a moment of grace for you; perhaps you and I are being touched again by God here in His house in the Presence of His Christ and in the life of His Holy Spirit.