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Feast of Christ the King (Ages 9-12): Sheep and Goats

 
 

In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus tells a parable about the Kingdom of God that sounds, frankly, a little worrisome. We hear about the coming of the King, and we hear about judgment.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world

The king calls the sheep "blessed" because they inherit the Kingdom. Later Jesus refers to them the "righteous." This means that they are in right-relationship with both God and neighbour. The goats, on the other hand—on the King's left hand—he calls "accursed." Accursed, because they do not enter into the Kingdom.

The King says to the sheep,

I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

The King says to the goats,

I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

Perhaps he gives us here a vision of the Kingdom—this Kingdom that has been prepared since the foundation of the world.


It is a kingdom where all are fed.

A kingdom where no one thirsts.

A kingdom where all are welcome.

A kingdom where everyone is clothed with dignity.

A kingdom where there is no more sickness or death.


And what is the vision of the kingdom where those in prison are visited?

Perhaps it is a Kingdom where even the worst are shown mercy, and are offered forgiveness.


Notice the reaction of the sheep.

‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry...?’

Notice the reaction of the goats.

‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry...?’ 

Their reactions are the same. They did not know that helping those in need serves the King. What does this tell us?


Something is not quite right. Why would the sheep and goats not know? They have the same vision of the Kingdom that we have. They know what we know: the Summary of the Law—Love God, Love your neighbour. They have heard the parables. They must know about the Kingdom.


We have to wonder if the reaction of the sheep and the goats is the same, because in fact, they are the same people.

Are there not times in our lives when we know we are like the sheep? Can we not think of times when we have served the poor, the homeless, the friendless, the weak? Can we not think of times we have forgiven the people who have hurt us?


And are there not also other times when, if we are being honest, we have been like the goats? There are times when we have ignored those who needed us most, when we have chosen not to see, not to care, not to help. There are times when it has felt good to hold a grudge and not to forgive.


Are we sheep, then, or are we goats?

Or are we a bit of both?


See? This parable is a little worrisome.


Except...what do we know? We know that the Kingdom of God is not so such a "where" as a "when." We know that the Kingdom of God is when all are fed,

when no one thirsts,

when all are welcome,

when everyone is clothed with dignity,

when there is no more sickness or death.


And the Kingdom of God is when even the worst are offered forgiveness.

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

So we take that offer.

We start again.

We see the King in those who need help, and we serve him.


And when the King comes, all our goat-iness will be cast away,

our sins will become as white as wool,

and as sheep we will inherit the Kingdom prepared for us since the foundation of the world.

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