for Sunday, November 22, 2020
For the Kingdom and the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.
This flourish was put into the margin next to the Lord's Prayer in Matthew by one of the inscribers of the Middle Ages. In the days before the printing press, the only copies of books were produced by monks who spent long days meticulously reproducing the texts set before them. These men prayed over what they were writing. The monk who wrote the flourish wanted to place a prayer next to what he was copying. He wanted to share what his soul was crying out. He wanted the world to know that God was the one and only king, the supreme king. He wanted the world to know that Jesus Christ had come to establish the Kingdom of God in this world.
This kingdom was different from any the world had ever seen. It was a kingdom of charity, a kingdom of love, a kingdom whose least members would be valued and cared for. And so, at the conclusion of the 25th chapter of Matthew, we have the story of the sheep and the goats. This seemingly simple story leads us to a profound meditation on the fundamental nature of the Kingdom of God on earth, the Church.
First, the Church is not just a humanitarian organization. The Church is the Body of Christ on earth. It looks to serve Christ and to be Christ in every area of its life. Humanitarians are concerned with the good of their fellow men. This is wonderful. The world has certainly benefitted from the determination of so many rich individuals and couples who have given a great deal of their wealth for worthy causes. God sees them. God will reward them.
But what we do in the Church is far more than humanitarian. We seek the very presence of the Lord in those who are hurting. When He tells the sheep that they will be rewarded or the goats that they will be condemned, the Lord does not just say that those who are suffering are important to Him. No, He identifies Himself with them. He says, "I was hungry; I was thirsty; I was naked; I was a stranger; I was sick; I was in prison." Our charity is not just something we do. It is our caring for the presence of Jesus Christ in those with profound needs. We are Christians, servants of the One who identifies Himself with the marginalized.
Secondly, we cannot be satisfied just with encouraging the government to care for all who are suffering. Yes, we must do that. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is correct in its efforts as lobbyists in Washington, DC. It is patriotic for the Church to demand that our government be just and moral. But efforts to change the laws of the country do not supplant our responsibility to care for the weakest of our society ourselves. Whether the country is just or unjust, we must always be charitable.
Thirdly, we must respond to what we have received from the Lord. We have received mercy. We have received reconciliation. We have received acceptance as sons and daughter of God. It is a challenge for us to live out the gratitude we owe God. We demonstrate our gratitude in the way in which we treat those who are abandoned in the world today.
What is often called the preferential option for the poor is then something we undertake not out of a sense of duty, but out of a sense of gratitude for the extraordinary gift of God's love. Love is amazing. We receive love only by giving love. We receive God's love by sharing his love with others, particularly with those people with whom Jesus Christ has said he is present in a special way.
Our American society is suffering from extreme polarization: liberals vs conservatives, Republicans vs Democrats. Each side sees little good in the other side and little wrong in their side. Many people, including Catholics, are identifying themselves with political parties and political ideals. This is wrong. The Lord did not call us into a political party. He called us into the Kingdom of God. The way we need to identify ourselves is as authentic followers of Jesus Christ. When we do that, then we will find ourselves supporting various positions of each party because these positions best represent the one party we need to belong to, the party of Jesus Christ.
For the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory are His, forever and ever. Amen.
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Ezekiel 34.11-12, 15-17
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15.20-26, 28
Gospel: Matthew 25.31-46
This material is used with permission of its author, Rev. Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino, Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL. Visit his
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