The Last Judgment
Opening Question: How do you take care of your pet?
First Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
In the time of Jesus, people considered sheep more as pets than farm animals. Shepherds didn't use sheep dogs to lead the flock. The shepherd would walk in front of the flock and call to his flock the way we call our animals. Sheep are intelligent enough to follow their master and ignore any other.
Why are sheep so loyal? The same way our dogs are loyal. The shepherd took care of the sheep in the same way we car for our dogs. The shepherd had a name for each animal. He would groom them, check them for sores or disease. He would feed and give them water to drink. The shepherd would protect them at night and give them shelter from the cold. The sheep knew they were in good hands with the shepherd.
Sheep are noble animals. They are quiet, yet persistent. They defend their area and their families. They will fight any other sheep that threatens their family, even to the death. When wolves threaten the flock, the male adults will form a circle around the females. The lambs will be pushed into the center.
Goats are stupid, stubborn animals. They do not protect their families from other goats. While goats and sheep gaze together during the day, the shepherds separate them at night for their safety. The shepherds have to force goats into a barn at night, when they call their sheep together, and the sheep come forward.
Are we like sheep? Do we listen to others when they are in need? Do we hear God urging us to pray and help others? Or, are we like goats who are stubborn and selfish?
Bridging Question: How many of you have given to a food drive for the poor? Or, given clothes to a homeless shelter? How did you feel after you gave?
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-40
Jesus said to his followers:
When the Son of Man comes in power with his messengers, he will sit like a king on a royal throne. Then everyone who ever lived will gather together before him. Just like a shepherd separates sheep from goats, the Son will divide everyone into two groups. He will put some people on his right, like the sheep. But, he will put the other people on his left, like the goats.
Then, like a king, the Son will say to those on his right, "My Father has blessed you. Come and receive the Kingdom God planned when he created everything. I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you made me feel right a home. I had few clothes and you gave me more. I was sick and you visited me to see if you could help. I was under arrest and you came to see me.
Then, the good people who stand at the Son's right will say, "Lord, when did we see you were a hungry person and we fed you? Or, when did we see you were a thirsty person and gave you a drink? When did we see you were a stranger and we made you feel at home? Or, when did we see you were someone with few clothes and gave you more? When did we see you were sick and we came to see if we could help you? Or, when did we see you were under arrest and we came to visit you?"
"Listen!" the Son answered. "Whenever you served the least important person, you served me." Then, the Son turned to the people on his left, "Go away, you evil people! Go into the fire that will not end! God prepared that fire for the devil and his followers. I was hungry and you did not give me any food to eat. I was thirsty and you did not give me a drink. I was a stranger and you ignored me. I had few clothes and you did not give me any more. I was sick or under arrest and you didn't bother to visit me."
"When did we see you hungry or thirsty? When did we meet you as a stranger or a homeless person without clothes? When did we think you were sick or under arrest?" the evil people will say. "When did we do any of these things and not serve you?"
"Listen!" the Son will say to them. "Whenever you failed to serve the least important person, you failed to serve me."
These evil people will suffer punishment that will never end. But the good people will enjoy a life with God that will last forever.
Regina sat in the corner, alone and dejected. Her father came home with bad news. He just lost his job. Without money, they would have no place to live and no food to eat.
Ever since her mom died, life had been tough for Regina and her father. They lived together in a small apartment with little furniture. Both saved the little money they had for food and clothes. Once in a while, Regina's father would buy her an ice cream cone as a treat, but that didn't happen very often.
Now, Regina didn't know if she would be living with her father or going to a new school. "What's going to happen to us?" She asked her father.
"I don't know," her father replied. "I do know there are people who have a lot less than we do."
"What do you mean, Dad?" Regina inquired.
"Think about Miss Judy next door," her father said. "You've seen how few things she has. You know how lonely she is."
Regina thought about the elderly woman in the next apartment. Once a week, Regina brought Miss Judy a loaf of bread and any extra fruit they had. For an hour or so, Regina and Miss Judy would sit and discuss everything. The weather, other people in the apartment, the woman's daily walks, school, lots of things. Regina enjoyed those times as much as Miss Judy. Regina thought of the elderly woman like a grandmother.
"Regina, if God takes care of Miss Judy," her father said, "he will take care of us."
Regina didn't feel so bad after their conversation. She hugged her father and whispered, "I love you. We'll do all right."
God wants us to share what we have with others, just like Regina. If we do, we will be like the sheep in the gospel. The Lord will call us to stand at his right hand. And we will enjoy heaven with him forever.
Closing Question: The holidays are coming soon. What can we share with others who have needs? How can we be a little more friendly?