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LITURGY AND LIFE

By Anne Strachan

11/12/2014

Christ the King
November 23, 2014

Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Psalm 23
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Matthew 25:31-46

 

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.”

Jesus is our shepherd, and we try to follow him. However, like sheep, we too can wander and become lost. Jesus reaches out with compassion as we mull around in confusion and sinfulness. He encourages us to pray.

Prayer is a path to God. To partake in the eucharist with full attention (or even if we’re distracted and doubting) is also a way toward connection with our God. To participate in prayer-filled retreats in a monastic setting can indeed bring us very near to God, as I know!

But formal prayer is only the beginning. We need — even within our inevitable imperfection — to manifest forgiveness, compassion, hope and love to each person we encounter. Whether they are family, friends, strangers, or even enemies, love is crucial. The Jerome Biblical Commentary says: “. . . in the last analysis, it is love that determines whether (people) are good or bad . . . there is no substitute for active love.” If we pay attention and try to bring love into even the briefest encounters, we’ll be filled with joy and a sense of God’s healing power.

The Workbook for Lectors and Gospel Readers states: “The members of that ancient church, like us, probably had some social justice enthusiasts, wanting to find the risen Christ in the poor; they, like us, probably had some worship enthusiasts, wanting to find the exact ritual prescriptions for the realization of Christ’s presence in their midst; they, like us, probably had some theological absolutists, certain that God acts this way and not that way; they, like us, probably had some members who were satisfied with leaving things as they had always been; and they, like us, probably had some eager members whose interests changed with each new idea or interest that passed by . . .” In other words, we’re human! We may follow Jesus with sincerity and joy, but we can also be stubborn and unbending.

The prophet Ezekiel says, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out . . . I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered . . . I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak . . . I will feed my sheep with justice.’ ”

“He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff — they comfort me.”

Even in our darkest times — times of fear, anxiety, loneliness, illness — if we offer our heart and soul to others, it generates hope. We need to give of ourselves; we need to push the boundaries. Jean Vanier says in Jesus, the Gift of Love: “That is why Jesus calls his followers not just to give food to the poor, the lame, the crippled, and the blind, but to invite them to their table, to sit down and eat with them, which means to become their friend, to receive their gifts and their love, to empower them with love, and reveal to them their beauty and value. . . . Sometimes it can be very painful to be with them in all their anguish just as it was painful to remain close to the crucified Jesus.”

Suffering and death are inevitable. But St. Paul gives us a sense of profound hope: “Christ has been raised from the dead ... For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a man; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.”

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

Jesus encourages us to love our enemies. And he proclaims: “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me . . . Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.”

Jesus is our shepherd. He encourages us to pray; he challenges us to expand our prayers into actions that resonate with goodness and mercy.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.”

Strachan is married with three grown children and lives in Nakusp, B.C. She is a Benedictine Oblate with St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, Sask., and a member of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild.