Sunday (November 26): Come.. inherit the kingdom prepared for you

Meditation: Do you allow the love of Christ, who is your Lord and King, 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 day
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 kingdom.

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://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/