ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; 1 corinthians 15:20-26, 28; matthew 25:31-46
according to a jewish legend, a man went to heaven in a dream and watched at the gates.
a rabbi came and made his claim to enter: «day and night i studied the torah.» the angel at the gate said: «wait! we will investigate whether your study was for its own sake or for the sake of honours.»
a zaddik next approached: «i fasted much; i underwent many ritual cleansings; i studied the mystical commentary on the torah day and night.» the angel said: «wait until we have completed investigating your motives.»
then a tavern-keeper drew near and said: «i kept an open door and fed without charge every poor man who came into my inn.» the angel opened the gates for him.
the jewish legend has the same thrust as the gospel parable of the final judgment: GOD judges us not upon our acts of religiosity but upon the little acts of mercy we show (or do not show) to the least—the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned. more important, whenever we serve these least ones, we serve him, who identifies himself with them.
in the first reading, through ezekiel, GOD promises that he will reach out to the lost, the strayed, the injured, and the sick, and he will shepherd them. in the gospel, he challenges us—who have experienced his shepherding love—to be the shepherds and to do the reaching out to the least.
we come to the end of another liturgical year. today’s solemnity of CHRIST the universal king invites us to examine how the LORD has loved and cared for us in the past year, and how we have reached out to «the least brothers and sisters» of his.
am i aware of the numerous ways in which GOD has reached out to me and shepherded me? how will i reach out to and identify with the least of his brothers and sisters?