Today’s Gospel: Matthew 25:31-36
What image do we in modernity have when the words sheep and goats are mentioned? They both had economic value back in the time of Jesus. But how do the people of today understand this Gospel teaching by Jesus?
I’m not a farmer and I don’t play one… Perhaps the meaning is found in the image of those who know these animals. Sheep are meek and mild. And we know from Scripture that Jesus often referred to sheep — their tendency to stay close to the shepherd. Whereas, goats tend to be ‘ornery’ or at least self-minded. Goats have a tendency to stay just out of reach.
Many, many years ago, I decided that I should be a Eucharistic Minister. Note: This starts with two ‘I’s and with good reason. Like many people I’ve since encountered in Church ministry – I was full of ‘I’ and ‘Me’ and ‘My.’
Why should the pastor have to approve ‘Me’ for becoming a Eucharistic Minister? Why should he make ‘Me’ go through training — what training does it take to hand out hosts, or give someone a cup to drink from? Why should ‘I’ give up a full day to go to a training session at a far-away parish? There you go: I, Me, My….
This problem hasn’t been licked in me – it’s part of a human condition called pride. Or goat-headed-ness. We humans — not all, but a goodly number of us, bring the world into Church with us. We expect it to respond or act like perhaps our office environment. At the office, those who are determined and self-driven get things done. Church isn’t like anything else in the world. Nor should it be.
I remember one time checking into Madonna House to spend time on a sort of working retreat. I told those that were getting me in and started that I worked in computers and marketing and management. I volunteered that I could look at what they were doing with computers and perhaps fix or help with a few things. Their reply was ‘Tom – we have weeds in the garden.’
That simple lesson taught me something: That ‘I’ have weeds in ‘My’ garden and they have caused ‘Me’ problems through a lot of my life.
Have you ever read the Litany of Humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val? Consider praying it.
From the desire to lead, deliver me O Lord. From the love of my own comfort, from a fear of having nothing, from a life of worldly passions, deliver me, O God. (Excerpt from the song I Shall Not Want, by Audrey Assad.)
Copyright 2014 Deacon Tom Fox