This is coming a bit early, but I will be away this weekend and wanted you all to have this material in preparation for Sunday–Pastor Kathy
We have come to the end of this Year of Grace and with all endings, come beginnings! How wonderful for all of us! But back to this Sunday which is a celebration of our brother and friend, Jesus, the Christ who now lives in glory, but yet is with us always as that same brother and friend for us to look up to and to follow. May our prayer this week for each other be one of gratitude for all that is, along with a prayer that each of us strives to be all that we can be for ourselves and for others.
May each of you know peace in your daily lives, especially during this time of pandemic. And as we move toward our annual, national feast of Thanksgiving which for most of us will look quite different this year due to the need that we all practice safety for the good of us all–I extend from Robert and I the utmost sense of gratitude for each of you–stay safe and well!
We will have the treat of a homily from Pastor Dick Dahl this Sunday–thank you Dick!
Please be in touch if I can help you in any way, or if you just would like to talk–507-429-3616 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peace and love, Pastor Kathy
The lamb that was slain is worthy to receive strength and divinity, wisdom and power and honor; to him be glory and power forever.
Let us pray—
All Good Creator, God of love, you have raised Jesus, the Christ from death to life, resplendent in glory as our true Model in all of Creation. Open our hearts, free the entire world to rejoice in Jesus’ peace, justice, and love. Bring all humankind together in Jesus, our Brother, whose kin-dom is with you, loving Creator and with your Spirit—all, One God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen
- Ezekiel 34: 11-12
- 1 Corinthians 15: 20-26, 28
- Matthew 25: 31-46
Do you feel you know God, that you experience God? We seek God in many ways and places. Some say God seeks us.
We are given many images by which to find God in the Scriptures. The first reading today is from the prophet Ezekiel who spoke from exile in Babylon. He spoke of the Lord God in the image of a shepherd and did so more than anyone else. Ezekiel was using the image to refer to the kings of Israel who acted more for their own profit than for the needs of the people. He presents the Lord God, however, as a different kind of shepherd of his people. He searches for his sheep who are scattered. When he finds them, he examines them. The injured he binds up and the sick he heals. He cares for each one. He will bring them back to good grazing land.
Ezekiel was encouraging the Israelites in exile that the Lord would restore them, free them from captivity and bring them back to their homeland. He is to them what a good shepherd is to his flocks. Centuries later Jesus used this image when he identified himself as the good shepherd, not literally, but with the connotations Ezekiel had given to the image. He also used Ezekiel’s description of how shepherds separated the sheep and goats in their flocks. They did this at night because goats need protective cover more than sheep do. But Jesus will use the image of this separation in a different way.
What does this have to do with today? We’re not looking for a shepherd. But we are privileged by Jesus to see God as one who cares about us, individually and collectively. God does not abandon us in whatever form of misery we may find ourselves.
In the Church’s Liturgical Year today is called the Feast of Christ the King. Strange isn’t it that the church insists on giving Jesus a title he never claimed or sought for himself. Why does the tendency to identify greatness with worldly titles and images often override the images Jesus gave of himself and his followers—meek of heart, often persecuted and misunderstood, etc.?
We know that after the Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity the religion of the empire early in the fifth century, church leaders became more accustomed to power and prestige, rather than identifying with the persecuted outcasts of society as Jesus had done. They downplayed and may have forgotten the basic message of Jesus in his sermon on the mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, you when they persecute you and say all manner of falsehoods about you because of me; rejoice then, the kingdom of heaven is yours.”
The Gospel reading today changes our focus from the past to the future. Matthew describes Jesus in glory surrounded by angels, before the nations of the earth. He is described as saying, “Look, paradise stands open for you.” Then, astounded at being addressed as friends by him whom the angelic hosts are clearly unable to behold, those saved ask, “Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you? Master, when did we see you thirty and give you a drink? When did we see you, whom we hold in awe, naked and clothe you? When did we see you, the Immortal One, a stranger and welcome you? When did we see you, lover of all, sick or in prison and come to visit you?
The answer to those questions brings us finally from the future to the present. Word has it that he is truly alive and among us. When and how do we find and see him?
After all, we believe him to be the most important person who ever walked the earth, God himself in human form! Shouldn’t we expect to find him among the powerful and famous? The people in ties and suits? The bishops in brocaded vestments or priests in Roman collars? Hardly in homeless shelters or crack houses, in refugee camps and cages along our southern border.
We thus can easily, instinctively, get it all wrong. We must listen to him: He identified the least human person with himself. He insists that we all bear the presence of the Most High, no matter how diminished or devalued we may seem. Perhaps then the first place to look for Jesus today may not be in seats of power like the White House or the Vatican.
Let’s spell out this most revolutionary message as it has been lived out in time: Before contemporary time, entire tribes of indigenous peoples disappeared in North and South America, sacrificed to idols of gold. Jews were banished or forcibly converted long before the abominable “final solution.” Holy “religious” wars were launched in the name of God. Children of every color and tribe have been traded or killed upon birth.
To such a bleak history, the Lord of history has spoken: “As often as you have done this to the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done it to me.”
Like all of holy Scripture, the parable of the end times is a judgment on the world. In human mayhem, we dismember the body of Christ. “You have done it to me.” The starving, the unwanted old, the criminal, the enemy—“the least”—are him.
This judgment of God is a moral command as well. In the eyes of Christ’s followers, the bodies of the wounded and murdered are bodies of Christ. Thus, killing is sacrilege. All wars are unholy. Implementing the death penalty is an ungodly act.
Scripture, in its greatest depth, does not merely present a moral challenge or a judgment on the world. It is, rather, a story of the mystery of salvation. For at the end of history, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made human flesh, will tell us again, “Whatsoever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did to me.” These words that challenge us are the very words that save us. (John Kavanaugh, SJ)
This may lead us to think he is only among victims of poverty, famine and war in foreign lands. On the other hand, as Joyce Ann Zimmerman, CPPS writes, those in need are also actually very near us. Wherever there is human need, there is Christ and we are called to respond.
In Matthew’s great parable of the last judgment the blessed and lost are separated by one norm: the care of others. If you and I accept, with our mind and heart and actions, the vision revealed by God’s Word, then he will address us as friends. He will say: “Inasmuch as you received, clothed, fed, and gave a drink to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, that is, to the poor, you did it to me. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me, in prison and you came to visit me.”
Where is he then? How can we find him? Everywhere.
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Jesus, our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
- Bless us Jesus, help us to find, and take time, each day to spend with you, that we might better be able to model our lives after yours, we pray— Response: “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
- Jesus, you lived a kingly life in the truest sense, help us to respond in our world with the compassion and love that you did in yours, we pray— Response: “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
- For all who are suffering here today or in our wider community, be with them and their families, who know the uncertainty of unresolved issues, be it in body, mind or spirit, we pray—Response: “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
- For all who are suffering because of war and conflict around our world today—help us as creatures gifted with this planet to beat our swords into plowshares enabling us to be people of peace, instead of conflict, we pray—Response: “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
- For those in our world who suffer because of how our loving God created them, enable us all as your people to appreciate differences as gift, especially as we see these differences in our youth, in women, in those of our LGBTQ community and elsewhere—help us to see all as “equally blessed” we pray—Response: “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
- For our community, All Are One, show us the ways to reach out to other Christian communities, to our non-Christian brothers and sisters, for which we may work toward that day when we will truly “be one” and gathered around the same table of praise and fellowship, we pray—Response: “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
- For all those who have died in this week and for their families—from COVID and all other causes—may they all be at peace, we pray, Response: “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
8. For our country as it struggles toward justice and truth, and well-being for all, we pray—Response: “Jesus our brother and friend, hear our prayer.”
***For all the silent intentions on our hearts, pause, we pray—Response:
Let Us Pray
Good and gentle God, we praise and love you for sending us Jesus to show us the way to life and love. Continue to be our strength in each year of our life, constantly drawing us through the mystery of Jesus’ life on our earth, closer to you and to him. Let us always be convicted of having followed his lead—let us never fear of doing the right thing, no matter the personal cost. Grant us your peace as the sign that we have at least attempted the way toward justice for all. As we finish this Year of Grace, help us to make a truthful review of our lives and recommit ourselves to love, mercy, justice, truth, and all-around goodness. We ask this of you, of Jesus, our model of kingly life in the truest sense, of the Living Spirit—all One God, living with us and loving us forever and ever, Amen.
Let Us Pray—again, even though we cannot be at the table together in a physical way, let us remember that our brother, Jesus is always with us.
Prayer for Communion
Loving God, you gave us Jesus, the Christ, our true Model in all of creation as “food” for everlasting life. Help us to live by the Gospel and bring us to the joy of Jesus’ kin-dom where all goodness and love exists, forever and ever, Amen.