Tag Archives: Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

November 23, 2014 (Year A Proper 29: Reign of Christ) Celtic Meditation

Matthew 25:31-46

This parable is the third in a series of teachings about Jesus’ second coming. In the first parable, we learned that we are to be like the wise bridesmaids and prepare for his coming. In the second parable, we learned how we are to prepare for our King’s return: we are to invest our insider knowledge about the Kingdom of Heaven (our talents) so that God’s work is done through us. This week we are given two more important and interrelated insights into the end of time: a description of our King and details about what investing our talents for the sake of the kingdom looks like.

Our King is a humble king, who suffered on behalf of his people and has tender compassion for the suffering. [1] Our King also is the Judge of humanity who doesn’t leave his people guessing as to what investing our insider Kingdom knowledge looks like: it looks like a life characterized by merciful deeds. [2] We are to be a people who seek justice by acting with loving-kindness [3] to our Christian brothers and sisters who are most in need because of hardships or persecution for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. [4]

As Christians, we are being transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit into the image of Christ our King. Who do we, as Church, not recognize as our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven?

What do we, as Church, need to be doing in order to train our individual eyes to see Christ in each other, especially those who suffer for the sake of the gospel?

Jesus will judge us on how we treat our fellow Christians who are suffering on behalf of the gospel. What do we, as Church, need to be doing in order to encourage each other to take risks and suffer for the Kingdom of Heaven? [5]

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[1] For a summary of the Christology in Matthew’s gospel, see John R. Donahue, S.J., “The ‘Parable’ of the Sheep and the Goats: A Challenge to Christian Ethics.” Theological Studies 47 (1986): 16-22.

[2] Examples of these merciful deeds are feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the prisoner. See also Mt 7:15-27.

[3] I agree with Donahue that loving-kindness is a better translation of hesed and eleos. (Ibid., 23-24).

[4] Ibid., 4. “While the ‘classic’ interpretation of this passage has always stressed that Jesus is present in needy or suffering people, for the majority of Church history these needy or suffering have been identified as Christians.” However, since the 19th century, has been seen as a call for the church to engage in universal care of the marginalized of society (Ibid, 8), but recent scholarship in the last two decades has called for a re-evaluation of this interpretation. Yet, in Matthew’s gospel, the term adelphos is used explicitly to describe a fellow Christian. (Ibid, 25). Donahue calls attention to Mt 10:40: “he who receives you receives me”; I would add Mt 12:50 “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (NRSV) as further support for the classic interpretation. This interpretation does not preclude or minimize the commandment to love our neighbors and our enemies, but that is not the focus of this passage. See also Mt 5:10-12.

[5] See Mt 5:10; my assumption is that if we hear the stories of those who have personally experience suffering for the sake of the kingdom or we recognize when our suffering is for the sake of righteousness, we will be sensitive to the suffering of others and seek to care for them.