The Sheep and the Goats
34 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. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
REFLECTION, By Fr Aldo, sx
Perhaps the main purpose of this parable is not to describe what is going to happen in the final judgment, but to lead the disciples to reflect, open the eyes regarding choices people make in their everyday life.
Let us imagine that in a jewelry store two items particularly catch your attention. One of the pieces is a dust covered 24 karat gold; the other piece is a shining and clean ordinary metal. Let us suppose that you are not an expert in identifying authentic gold and begin to show some interest in buying the shinning fake piece of no value. But a certain stranger who knows well the difference between one piece and the other approaches you and gives an advice: be careful, pay attention, unless you waste your money with ordinary metal!
Let us pause for a while and think: who are those whose life is considered a success in our society and culture? What is the ideal of the most famous person of our country? Who are those always hailed and exulted by the mass media? Who are those who distinguish themselves in facebook, youtube, etc.? Are not these the clever, those who have power, the rich, those who can enjoy their own lives the way they please? Are they not the athletes and TV celebrities who make their way to Hollywood, Las Vegas or some other singing and beauty contests?
Recently two sociologist created the ten commandments of success and the 10th one goes more or less like this: “Always remember that your career will end on the day you will help someone in your group out of sheer generosity and without any other interest.” This captures a prevailing mentality that more and more tends to become dominant in our society.
But how does God think and see things? What does God value? What Jesus reveals in this parable about the shepherd with his sheep and goats is that when the adventure of each human person here on earth will be ended, when each one will be with God, only one thing will matter: the love shown to the brothers and sisters.
Those who love their fellow human being love also God and it is not possible to love God without loving one’s neighbor. Even the various forms of religious expression, devotion and liturgy are fake and of no use if they don’t lead people to loving one another. The love for one’s neighbor is the measure of the love one has for God.
There is a point well emphasized in the story that none of those who did good things in favor of their fellows in need realized that they were actually rendering a service to Jesus. This is an invitation to practice love without other interest. Those who do good in view of receiving compensation, even if it is just the hope to enter heaven, still do not love with authenticity.
Jesus is like stranger in the jewelry store helping the costumers to make the right choice, make a good deal and go home in possession of a real treasure.