Monday (March 11): Eternal life versus eternal
Meditation: Do you allow the love of God to rule in your
heart? Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.) said,
"Essentially, there are two kinds of people, because there are two
kinds of love. One is holy, the other is selfish. One is subject
to God; the other endeavors to equal Him." Jesus came not only to
fulfill the law of righteousness (Leviticus 19), but to transform
it through his unconditional love and mercy towards us.
The Lord Jesus proved his love for us by offering up his life on
the cross as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. His death brings
freedom and life for us - freedom from fear, selfishness, and
greed - and new abundant life in the Holy Spirit who fills our
hearts with the love of God (Romans 5:5). Do you allow God's love
to purify your heart and transform your mind to think, act, and
love others as the Lord Jesus has taught through word and example?
The lesson of separating goats and sheep at the end of the
Jesus' description of the "Son of Man", a Messianic title which
points to the coming of God's anointed Ruler and Judge over the
earth (John 5:26-29, Daniel 7:13ff), and his parable about the
separation of goats and sheep must have startled his audience.
What does the separation of goats and sheep have to do with the
Day of God's Judgement over the earth? In arid dry lands such as
Palestine, goats and sheep often grazed together during the day
because green pasture was sparse. At nightfall, when the shepherd
brought the sheep and goats to their place of rest, he separated
them into two groups. Goats by temperament are aggressive,
domineering, restless, and territorial. They butt heads with their
horns whenever they think someone is intruding on their space.
Goats came to symbolize evil and the expression "scape-goat"
become a common expression for someone bearing blame or guilt for
others. (See Leviticus 26:20-22 for a description of the ritual
expulsion of a sin-bearing goat on the Day of Atonement.)
Jesus took our guilt and sins upon himself and nailed them to the
cross. He payed the price to set us free from sin and death. Our
choice is either to follow and obey him as our Lord and Savior or
to be our own master and go our own separate way apart from God's
way of truth and righteousness (moral goodness). We cannot remain
neutral or indifferent to the commands of Christ. If we do not
repent of our wrongdoing (our sins and offenses against God and
neighbor) and obey the Gospel we cannot be disciples of the Lord
Jesus nor inherit his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy.
Separation of the good from the bad is inevitable because one way
leads to sin, rebellion, and death and the other way leads to
purification, peace, and everlasting life with God.
Love of God frees us from inordinate love of self
The parable of the goats and sheep has a similar endpoint as the
parable of the rich man who refused to give any help to the poor man
Lazarus who begged daily at the rich man's doorstep (Luke
16:19-31). Although Lazarus was poor and lacked what he
needed, he nonetheless put his hope in God and the promise of
everlasting life in God's kingdom. The rich man was a lover of
wealth rather than a lover of God and neighbor. When Lazarus died he
was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom to receive his reward
in heaven. When the rich man died his fortunes were reversed and he
was cast into the unquenchable fires of hell to receive his just
desserts. The parable emphasizes the great chasm and wall of
separation between the former rich man held now bound as a poor and
miserable prisoner in hell and Lazarus clothed in royal garments
feasting at God's banquet table in the kingdom of heaven.
The day of God's righteous judgment will disclose which kind of love
we chose in this present life - a holy unselfish love directed to
God and to the welfare of our neighbor or a disordered and selfish
love that puts oneself above God and the good of our neighbor.
When Martin of Tours (316-397 AD), a young
Roman soldier who had been reluctant to fully commit his life to
Christ and be baptized as a Christian, met a poor beggar on the road
who had no clothes to warm himself in the freezing cold, Martin took
pity on him. He immediately got off his horse and cut his cloak in
two and then gave half to the stranger. That night Martin dreamt he
saw a vision of Jesus in heaven robed in a torn cloak just like the
one he gave away that day to the beggar. One of the angels next to
Jesus asked, "Master, why do you wear that battered cloak?" Jesus
replied, "My servant Martin gave it to me." Martin's disciple and
biographer Sulpicius Severus states that as a consequence of this
vision "Martin flew to be baptized" to give his life fully to Christ
as a member of his people - the body of Christ on earth and the
communion of saints and angels in heaven.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.) wrote, "Christ is
at once above and below - above in Himself, below in his people.
Fear Christ above, and recognize him below. Here he is poor, with
and in the poor; there he is rich, with and in God. Have Christ
above bestowing his bounty; recognize him here in his need" (excerpt
from Sermon 123, 44).
On the day of judgment Jesus will ask "whom did you love"?
When the Lord Jesus comes again as Judge and Ruler over all, he will
call each one of us to stand before his seat of judgment to answer
the question - who did you love and put first in this life?
Inordinate love of self crowds out love of God and love of neighbor.
Those who put their faith in Jesus Christ and follow his way of
love and righteousness will not be disappointed. They will
receive the just reward - life and peace with God in his everlasting
If we entrust our lives to the Lord Jesus today, and allow his Holy
Spirit to purify our hearts and minds, then he will give us the
grace, strength, and freedom to walk and live each day in the power
of his merciful love and goodness. Let us entrust our lives into the
hands of the merciful Savior who gave his life for us. And let us
ask the Lord Jesus to increase our faith, strengthen our hope, and
enkindle in us the fire of his merciful love and compassion for all.
"Lord Jesus, be the Master and Ruler of my life. May your love rule
in my heart that I may only think, act, and speak with charity and
good will for all."
This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is
located at: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/