Bible Cross-References
by Jason

GOSPEL

2 Corinthians 13:5
James 1:23-25
Lamentations 3:40
Job 13:23
Galatians 6:4
2 Corinthians 6:17
Numbers 16:21
1 Corinthians 15:33

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Inductive Bible Study

Christ the King — Year A

Fr. Fleming
Fr. Hawkswell
Fr. Hoisington
Fr. Kavanaugh, SJ
Fr. Ligato
Msgr. Pellegrino
Fr. Smiga
Fr. John Thornhill, sm
Jamie Waters
and more


Fr. Tony’s Homilies

Overview
1st & 2nd Reading
Gospel Exegesis
Life Messages
Homily Illustrations
Jokes of the Week


Faith Sharing
Discussion
Bible Study

Over 50 questions each week from which to pick and choose.

Larry Broding
Fr. Eamon Tobin
Fr. Clement Thibodeau
Vince Contreras

INTROFIRSTPSALMSECONDGOSPELCATENA AUREA
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When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. — Matthew 25:31-32

USCCB Sunday Mass Readings

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First Reading

commentary

"I will rescue [my sheep] from every place where they were scattered." — Ezekiel 34:12b

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Responsorial Psalm

"You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." — Ps 23:5b

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Second Reading

"When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all. " — 1 Corinthians 15:28

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commentary

"I will rescue [my sheep] from every place where they were scattered." — Ezekiel 34:12b

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First Reading

Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17

INTRODUCTION — In the crisis of their exile in Babylon, the princes and priests of Israel failed to shepherd the people faithfully. So through the prophet Ezekiel, God promises to eliminate the middle-men and care for the people directly.

SOURCE: LectorPrep.org (Greg Warnusz)

Reflections

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The Good Shepherd

FIRST READING—The historical context for the Book of Ezekiel is the Babylonian exile. After the fall of Jerusalem, those still alive are taken into exile in Babylon. “By the rivers of Babylon we sat mourning and weeping.”(Ps 137:1)

During their time in exile, the people have no shepherds, no leaders. Ezekiel, a prophet also in exile, tells his people that God is going to step into the vacuum of leadership and become their Good Shepherd who will:

  • seek out the lost sheep
  • tend to his flock
  • lead his flock to rich pastures
  • bind up the wounds of the injured and sick
  • and be a judge of bad shepherds
©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Christ will judge between one sheep and another

FIRST READING—It is a traditional theme of the Jewish Scriptures that the Lord is the shepherd of his flock, Israel. The Lord is a committed shepherd; he seeks out the sheep who are lost, one by one. Individuals seem important to this Shepherd. It is not just a matter of keeping the whole flock secure but also reaching out to the individuals who have wandered from the flock. In earlier Jewish writings, there does not seem to be much awareness of individuals. It is the nation that matters to God. God saves the nation by rescuing it from bondage in Egypt,by guiding it through the wilderness into a land of milk and honey. Personhood was not evena concept in ancient Israel, nationhood was. Now, with the Exile in Babylon, there emerges a new awareness of persons as individuals. God will seek them out, personally and individually. This Shepherd will even go up into the cloudy mountaintops to find stray sheep –even into the darkness of the night.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

The valiant woman as an image of God

FIRST READING—Praise of the valiant woman brings the Book of Proverbs to its end. The entire poem, Proverbs 31:10-31, makes an acrostic, a poetry form in which the first word in each verse begins with the successive letters of the alphabet. In addition to being entertaining and an aid for memorization, the acrostic form implies that the poem says everything there is to say about its subject, from A to Z, Alpha to Omega, Alef to Tav. By putting this poem at the end of the Book of Proverbs, the authors were suggesting that all the wisdom they had collected from their tradition came to its apex in the woman described here.

The valiant woman does everything that a faithful Israelite should do. No arm candy is this one, nor is she a couch potato. She knows what to do with wool, and she is an expert at finding the best for her family when she goes to market. No one goes hungry around her, and she is the first to show others how to work. She enjoys the fruits of her labor, but doesn’t keep them for herself or her own.

The poem creates an inspiring image as it describes her generosity. This woman “reaches out her hands to the poor,” implying that she is there to lift them up and give of what she has. Then, going much further it says, “She extends her arms to the needy.” She actually embraces those who are languishing. This worthy woman cares for the body and soul of those who need her. Because of that, her husband can entrust his heart to her, and he commands respect among the elders who sit at the city gate. She makes things good for him at home and in public.

The poem tells us three key things about her relationship with God (See verses 25, 26, 30). She opens her mouth in wisdom, meaning that she speaks from discernment and knows God in her heart. Second, she fears the Lord, which means that she stands in holy awe of God’s majesty. Third, because she fears the Lord, “she laughs at the days to come.” She is content to do all she can to provide for those who need her while trusting God for the rest.

While we may think of the Hebrew culture as marked by male chauvinism, this reading describes the woman who is like the just man praised in Psalm 1. The just man is like a tree planted near running waters. The worthy woman is an image of the God who created her, and she will see her works praise her at the city gates.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections, 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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Tips for Lectors

Note that the prophet speaks in God’s voice, in the first person, and use your own tone of voice to express his feelings about the situation. When God says I will do this, the unspoken meaning is because you bad shepherds will not. So emphasize all the occurrences of I and speak with the vehemence of prophetic outrage, especially in the early sentences.

On the other hand, the passage has a great tenderness in its concern for the people who have suffered from bad leadership. In the latter sentences, where God promises to bring back strays and heal the sick, express that tenderness, too.

SOURCE: LectorPrep.org (Greg Warnusz)

Commentaries

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Life Recovery Bible

God’s promise of rescue

Even though Israel was now a conquered nation and Jerusalem had fallen, even though the people had been deported and had no real hope for the future—God had given them a promise that could be counted on: He would rescue them and bring them safely home again. No matter what our circumstances, we can be assured of God’s constant care and concern for us.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

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Theology of Work Commentary

Good leaders seek the interest of others before “feeding” themselves

This message of leadership, drawn from shepherding, is applicable to other occupations. Leadership that imitates “the Good Shepherd” of John 10:11, 14 is fundamentally an office of servanthood that requires genuine care for the wellbeing of subordinates. Managing people is not about power trips or holding one’s authority over others. Rather, godly and righteous supervisors seek to ensure that the people under their care are flourishing. This is consistent with best management practices taught at business schools and employed in many companies. But godly people do it out of faithfulness to God, not because it is accepted practice in their organizations.

Andrew Mein contends that most readers “pay too little attention to the way economic realities may inform any specific use of a metaphor, with the result that all of the biblical images of shepherding collapse into a rather monochrome picture of caring generosity.” While Ezekiel 34 reflects God’s care for his sheep (like other shepherding passages, e.g., Jeremiah 23, Psalm 23, John 10), the chapter specifically reflects more about the economics of ancient sheep-herding and thus applies more specifically to a leader’s economic responsibilities. The shepherds have violated the economics of their obligations by “failing to produce the required return on an investment and misappropriation of the owner’s property.” (Andrew Mein, “Profitable and Unprofitable Shepherds: Economic and Theological Perspectives on Ezekiel 34,” JSOT, 31:4 (2007), 496.)

God holds them responsible while reclaiming his flock. It is too little merely to say that the shepherds of Israel have failed to look after the interest of the sheep. Rather, the shepherds have not worked for the interests of the sheep’s owner who hired them and who expects a valuable return on his investment. This understanding could be applied today to questions of executive compensation and corporate governance. Ezekiel provides no general pronouncement on such issues, but provides criteria by which each corporation’s practices could be assessed.

Thus Ezekiel 34 is a rich text for a theology of work. Leaders are to care for the needs and interests of those under their leadership (Philippians 2:3-4). Beyond that, they are responsible to accomplish the economic task they have been hired to do. We are to work for the profit and welfare of those who stand on rungs both above and below us on the corporate ladder (Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-24). Ultimately, all should work for the honor to which God is entitled.

SOURCE: © 2014 Theology of Work Project, Inc.; Used with permission. (Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.)

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Sermon Writer
Biblical Commentary (Bible Study) by Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, who published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale is graciously keeping his website online FREE, subscription no longer required.

First Reading Exegesis

  • THE BROAD CONTEXT
  • THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT
  • I WILL SEARCH FOR MY SHEEP
  • WHAT’S NOT IN THE LECTIONARY READING
  • THERFORE I WILL SAVE MY FLOCK
  • I WILL SET UP ONE SHEPHERD OVER THEM—DAVID

Sermons

Sunday Readingscommentary

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Imagery of shepherd

The First Reading, the Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel Reading describe our Lord as a king over His people, using the imagery of a shepherd who cares for his flock. The last verse in the First Reading is the link to the Gospel Reading. The Gospel Reading uses the imagery of the Divine Shepherd separating the sheep from the goats in judging between the righteous and the wicked. In the Psalms, we acknowledge the Lord as our Divine Shepherd, who lovingly provides for the sheep of His flock who are His covenant people. In the Second Reading, St. Paul teaches that Jesus’ reign as king, inaugurated in His Resurrection, will last until His Second Advent when He will return to collect His Bride, the Church, and sit as the Divine Judge over humanity. After the Last Judgment, He will take His Bride to Heaven for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb when He submits Himself and His Church to the Father.

Exploring the Text

Symbolic imagery of a shepherd-king

Ezekiel’s 6th century BC prophecy is a covenant lawsuit against the Sinai Covenant’s failed leaders who do not rightly “shepherd” the flock of God’s people. The symbolic imagery of a shepherd-king was typical in the ancient Near East, and the Bible uses the same imagery (for example, see 2 Sam 5:1-2). Jeremiah used it for the kings of Israel to rebuke their failures (Jer 2:8; 10:21; 23:1-3) and to proclaim that God would give His people new shepherds who would lead His people (“pasture” them) with integrity (Jer 3:15; 23:4). God also promised through His prophets that from the ancestral line of the shepherd-king David, He would send a righteous “Branch,” the Davidic Messiah, to “shepherd” His people (Is 11:6-9; Jer 23:5-6; Ez 34:23-24). In our reading, Ezekiel took up the same “shepherding” theme when God promised that He would come Himself to shepherd His people. Zechariah will resume the same prophecy in the late 6th century BC (Zec 11:4-17; 13:7), and God the Son will fulfill it in the 1st century AD.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Yahweh's remedy for Israel

After listing the failures of past “shepherds” of Israel in Ezekiel 34:1-10, Yahweh contrasts each abuse with His remedy (Ez 34:11-16). God begins His response to the failed shepherds with His promise that “I Myself” will come to “look after and tend my sheep” (repeated four times in Ez 34:11, 15 twice, and 20). Yahweh fulfilled that prophecy in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, son of David and Son of God. In Jesus, God Himself came to restore His people and to seek out those lost in the darkness of sin. Jesus announced to the people that He is the Davidic “Good Shepherd” who came according to prophecy (Mt 1:1; Lk 1:32-33; Jn 10:1-18). During the years of His ministry, Jesus cured the sick, healed the blind and the disabled. He tended to the brokenhearted, forgiving their sins and restoring the old Israel in preparation for His Kingdom of the universal Church of the new Israel. At the same time, he “came against” (Ez 34:10) the elders, chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees for their abuses in seven curse judgments against the Old Covenant hierarchy (Mt 23:1-36). God promised to come to “shepherd them rightly” (Ez 34:16) by judging their abuses.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
God as divine judge

17 As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD, I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.

God would not only come physically but would also come as Divine Judge. It was the common practice to keep goats and sheep in the same flock. In bad weather, the shepherd had to separate them at night and take the goats into a warmer enclosure since their coats were not sufficiently heavy to keep them warm (Jeremias, Parables of Jesus, page 206). God “tends” all peoples together, but the time will come when He will separate by divine judgment the “sheep from the goats.” After Jesus condemned the Old Covenant hierarchy in Matthew 24, He gave a discourse in Matthew 25 on the Last Judgment (our Gospel Reading), using the same imagery of sheep and goats. The “goats” are men and women who stand in opposition to the will of God for their lives, while the sheep are those who respond to God by sharing His love with those in need. The fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy will take place when Jesus returns as the Divine Judge who separates the “sheep” of the faithful from the “goats” of the wicked and sends “the goats” into eternal punishment and the sheep to eternal life: And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Mt 25:31-46).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE):
"People find themselves in some pretty dark places sometimes, where they can no longer feel God’s goodness in their lives. Sometimes it’s our own fault, due to the sins we have committed. Sometimes it’s not. Whether it’s our fault or not, God knows when we are hurting and His compassion knows no boundaries. That’s pretty much what Jesus said in today’s gospel too. Except he took it a step further and said that we need to be Christ for one another. It is kind of ironic that Jesus said we would be judged by whether we fed the hungry, give the thirsty a drink, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, visited the sick, and those in prison." SOURCE: The Black Sheep in the Family by Laura Kazlas (A Catholic Moment - Daily Mass readings and reflections)
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"You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." — Ps 23:5b

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Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6

Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—This psalm uses the imagery of the Good Shepherd to describe God’s care for his people.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

Commentary

Africa Bible Commentary

True pastors

Psalm 23 limits the role of the shepherd to providing protection and provision, but Jesus, the good shepherd, goes further. He is even prepared to lay down his life for the sheep (John 10: 11).

Those who serve under him to care for his flock are known as ‘pastors’, a word which means ‘shepherds’. The Apostle Peter warned the pastors of the church: ‘Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve’ (1 Pet 5: 2). Unfortunately, many today have become pastors as a way to escape poverty or unemployment. They are there for their own sake and not for the well-being of the flock.

Those who seek to be true pastors should draw on this psalm as they seek to understand their role. Their task is to provide nourishment and protection for God’s people. They should nurture the people of God with the Scriptures so that their sheep have a healthy faith, not an undernourished one that is weak and easy prey to false teachers. Pastors must also work to protect their flock from the many enemies that may threaten them.”

Those who do not have a pastoral background cannot fully understand the fundamental role the shepherd plays in ensuring the well-being of the flock. Nor can those from regions in Central Africa where there is plenty of water and vegetation, so that sheep can take care of themselves. But readers who come from desert regions in Africa truly understand this psalm. They know that the shepherd’s role is indispensable in regions where one may have to walk 9 miles (fifteen kilometres) to draw water or to find pasture for a flock.

SOURCE: Content taken from Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Writtten by 70 African Scholars by Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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Life Recovery Bible

God wants the best for us

God is our shepherd, and he knows what we need even better than we do. God wants us to have what is best for us. As long as we make him our shepherd, he will lead us to places of safety. He knows how to direct us away from places where we may be tempted to stumble. Even when we fall, he can deliver us from our failure, pain, and suffering. God will help us avoid the places where we have stumbled in the past and guide as we journey toward recovery.

SOURCE: Content taken from Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition. Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

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Theology of Work Commentary

God watches us while we work

“The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). If we trust God, we have the tranquility of knowing that God watches over us, like a shepherd watching over the sheep. This is a reminder to see our work from God’s perspective—not primarily as an instrument for our gratification, but as our part in God’s mission in the world. “He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake” (Ps. 23:3, emphasis added). We work to honor him and not for our own glory—a powerful reminder that we need to hear on a regular basis.

Such a godly perspective on our work generally drives us into our work more deeply, not away from it. In Psalm 23, we see this in the way the narrative of the Psalm is driven by the details of the work of shepherding. Shepherds find water, good grazing and paths in the wilderness. They ward off predators with sticks and staffs, and comfort the sheep with their words and their presence. Psalm 23 is first of all an accurate representation of the shepherd’s work. This gives it the grounding in reality needed to be meaningful as a spiritual meditation.

While we seek to honor God in our work, this does not mean the road will be easy. We sometimes may find ourselves in the “darkest valley” (Ps. 23:4). This could come as the loss of a contract, a teaching assignment that has gone bad, or feelings of isolation and meaninglessness in our work. Or it could come as a longer-term struggle, such as a toxic office environment or inability to find a job. These are things we’d prefer to avoid. But Psalm 23 reminds us that God is near in all circumstances. “I fear no evil for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4a). His work on our behalf is not hypothetical, but tangible and real. A shepherd has a rod and staff, and God has every instrument needed to bring us safely through the worst of life (Ps. 23:4b). God will take care of us even in a sometimes-hostile world, “in the presence of my enemies” (Ps. 23:5). It is easy to remember this when things are calm, but here we are called to remember it in the midst of the challenge and adversity. While we would often rather not think about this, it is through the challenges of our lives that God works out his purposes in us.

SOURCE: © 2014 Theology of Work Project, Inc.; Used with permission. (Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.)

Sunday Readingscommentary and homily help

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Our Divine Shepherd

In the Psalms, we acknowledge the Lord as our Divine Shepherd, who lovingly provides for the sheep of His flock who are His covenant people.

Exploring the Text

Overview of the psalm

The psalm begins with a statement concerning the blessings of good fortune for the person who fears offending Yahweh (Ps 128:1). It then describes how that good fortune manifests itself in a person’s life (Ps 128:2-4). The passage ends with a blessing invoking God on Mount Zion, a reference to worshipping in the Jerusalem Temple (Ps 128:5).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Two metaphors frame the psalm

The 23rd Psalm is probably the best-loved of the 150 psalms.  Attributed to King David, the shepherd boy God anointed as the king of Israel and the ancestor of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus Christ (Mt 1:1-16, 19-20; Lk 1:30-33), this psalm expresses a personal reflection of the relationship between the psalmist and the nearness of his God.  Two metaphors frame the psalm reading: the Lord as the Divine Shepherd (verses 1-3) and the Lord as the Divine Host of the sacred meal (verses 5-6).  In the secular literature of the ancient Near East, a shepherd’s role was often a metaphor for a king who leads his people in the same way a shepherd leads his flock.  Sacred Scripture uses the same metaphor (2 Sam 5:2; Is 44:28; etc.) to express the role of God the Divine King, the shepherd/protector and judge of His covenant people (Ps 28:9; Ps 96:9-10; Is 40:11; Ez 34:11-16; Mal 1:14; etc.).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
God's tender care

Describing the aspects of shepherding, perhaps from David’s perspective as a shepherd in his youth, the inspired writer provides a picture of his relationship with God as he seeks to live a life of holiness (verses 2-3).  The psalmist writes that he and the covenant people, who are members of God’s spiritual flock, are under the Divine Shepherd’s constant guidance as He leads them with tenderness and compassion. The Divine Shepherd takes into consideration the fears and weakness of His people, leading them not by the fearful raging rivers but by the quiet waters (sheep have a fear of drowning and will only drink from still waters).

God’s tender care gives the psalmist confidence that with God’s shepherding, he will reach the green pastures of God’s heavenly kingdom (1 Pt 5:4; Rev 7:17).  Even amid trials and sufferings, the psalmist feels a sense of security as he trusts in God to lead and protect him.  Despite his enemies, he knows that God, the Divine Host, has prepared a table for him when the time comes for him to enter into God’s eternal rest.  God anoints him with His spirit to keep him on the path of holiness and provides His cup of salvation. The psalmist is overwhelmed by the abundance of God’s mercy and covenant love.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Application of psalm for Christians

For Christians, this psalm takes on its full meaning in Jesus’ statement “I am the Good Shepherd” (Jn 10:11, 14; Heb 13:20) and in the sacred meal of the Eucharist.  At the table of the Last Supper, Jesus fulfilled the host metaphor of this psalm.  As the host, Jesus invited His disciples to the sacred feast of Unleavened Bread and offered them His Body and the cup of salvation that is His precious Blood for the first time (Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22:19-20). As the Good Shepherd and  Divine Host, Jesus continues to offer His faithful the sacred “thanksgiving” meal of the Eucharist on the altar table at every celebration of the Mass.  It is a banquet that looks back in time to the Last Supper and forward in time to the heavenly banquet in God’s eternal kingdom when the righteous enter into God’s eternal rest (Rev 19:5-9).  One day we hope to share in the Banquet of the Just and the Wedding Supper of the Lamb and His Bride, in the company of all the angels and saints, including the faithful David, in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE):
The head of Bishop Alberto Rojas is anointed with chrism oil during the rite of ordination on August 10, 2011. (Photo by Jon L. Hendricks). SOURCE: Chicago Catholic
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"When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all. " — 1 Corinthians 15:28

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Second Reading

1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28

INTRODUCTION — In a very early letter, for an anxious Christian community, Saint Paul tries to answer the big questions about our resurrection from the dead and the end of the world. Surprisingly, Paul puts those big questions into an even larger context.

SOURCE: LectorPrep.org (Greg Warnusz)

Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Significance of Christ’s resurrection

SECOND READING—The context for this reading is an argument Paul is having with some Corinthians who do not believe in the resurrection of the body. Paul asserts that Christ has been raised from the dead, and when he returns, all the faithful—living and dead—will be raised up. Then Christ will hand over the Kingdom to his Father. After that, all earthly powers and the forces of evil, including death, will be destroyed.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Christ will hand over the Kingdom to his Father

SECOND READING—There is a hierarchy in the heavenly economy: God at the summit,Christ under him, all who have been gathered to Christ, in him, presented as a gift and as a kingdom to the Father. This pyramid in Paul’s letters has had a great deal of influence on the development of Church structures in the Catholic tradition. However, we have put in all kinds of layers of human beings inside the bottom layer of Paul’s pyramid and have made a pyramid out of that bottom rung which is the Church. We have reproduced in the Church itself the pyramidal structure thayPaul describes as being in heaven. Our earthly pyramid has the laity at the bottom, the lower clergy above them, the higher clergy (bishops) on top of these, and the pope (Bishop of Rome) at the very top representing Christ. Before Vatican II, that was the only operational model of the Church,organically and structurally. A perfect model when describing the Church as kingdom under Christ! This model holds only limited application when referring to the Church on earth.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Being in Christ changes everything

SECOND READING—Our reading begins with the proclamation: “Christ has been raised.” Christians of the Orthodox and Byzantine traditions use that as a greeting throughout the 50 days of Eastertide. While most Christians recite long creeds that speak of creation, incarnation, the work of the Spirit and the holy Catholic Church, this proclamation is the core of the Christian faith. It tells us where we are going. A few verses before this reading Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching, empty too is your faith.”

Paul wrote from his own world of meaning. He believed Adam, the first human being, set the agenda for human life from his moment onward and that meant that all of creation was subject to death. Then came Christ who changed the story. Christ opened up humanity’s destiny to what God had always intended — life and union of all in God. While Paul’s symbolism and images come from a worldview we no longer hold, the message remains valid. It is the same teaching Paul expressed in Romans 8: All creation awaits its future in God, a future made possible in Christ.

When Paul speaks here of Christ as the “firstfruits” of those who have fallen asleep, he is speaking of believers’ identification with Christ which he understands as genuine union. It goes beyond solidarity, friendship or even love. For Paul, belonging to Christ means that believers have actually become part of him. His life is ours, and we participate in his future. That is another expression of what he said in Galatians 2:19-20: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” Being in Christ changes everything.

Another core idea Paul shares in this passage is his vision of the trajectory of creation. He sees Christ’s resurrection and return to the Father as the turning point of history. From the moment of his resurrection, everything is moving toward union with God. Paul describes this as Christ’s process of overcoming every other power. That process will be fulfilled when death comes to an end.

Paul wants his readers to understand that this is a process that has already begun and will continue until its end at a time that will come, but which, cannot be predicted. Paul uses his era’s apocalyptic images for this as he describes the destruction of powers and authorities and all enemies coming under Christ’s feet. Teilhard de Chardin had another set of images built on an understanding of evolution and Christ drawing all creation forward into union with God in Christ. No matter which images one chooses, both convey the deeper truth that the trajectory of life is moving toward union with God.

In the long run, Paul wants us to contemplate what he has said, to remember and marvel at what we have been given and what we are promised in Christ. As we celebrate Christ the King, we might concentrate on three dimensions of that message. First, we remember that Christ’s resurrection is the most basic tenet of our faith; there is no Christianity without the resurrection. Second, we recall that Christ’s resurrection has changed history: Everyone who is in Christ participates in his life and will share his future. Third, we remember that God is drawing all things into participation in divine life. Together, these convictions tell us about our past, present and future; they ground us in a life-changing, life-giving vision of who we are becoming.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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Tips for Lectors

The lector should find this more than a bit intimidating. The second half of this passage deserves the most solemn, dignified proclamation you can muster. I don’t like the punctuation supplied by the translators in this part of the passage:

then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;

then comes the end, … That second clause marks a new logical section, and deserves a pause before you start it. Slow down your reading dramatically here. You’re describing the climax of all, not just human, history.

SOURCE: LectorPrep.org (Greg Warnusz)

Commentaries

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Life Recovery Bible

The power of God

Some of the Corinthian believers had begun to question the hope of being resurrected to new life at Christ’s second coming. So Paul reemphasized the importance of the resurrection and the hope it offers to all, even those who are already dead. The greatest expression of God’s power was raising Jesus from the dead. If God could do that, then he has the power to do any- thing! If God did not raise Jesus from the grave, however, then our God is powerless, and we are lost. Paul affirmed the truth that Jesus did rise from the dead; in so doing, he also affirmed that we have access to the greatest power in the universe—God himself.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

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Sermon Writer
Biblical Commentary (Bible Study) by Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, who published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale is graciously keeping his website online FREE, subscription no longer required.

Second Reading Exegesis

  • THE CONTEXT
  • MOST PITIABLE
  • THE FIRST FRUITS OF THOSE WHO ARE ASLEEP
  • THE LAST ENEMY THAT WILL BE ABOLISHED IS DEATH

Sermons

  • None
Sunday Readingscommentary

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Jesus’ reign as king

In the Second Reading, St. Paul teaches that Jesus’ reign as king, inaugurated in His Resurrection, will last until His Second Advent when He will return to collect His Bride, the Church, and sit as the Divine Judge over humanity. After the Last Judgment, He will take His Bride to Heaven for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb when He submits Himself and His Church to the Father.

Exploring the Text

The end of the age

St. Paul writes about the end of the age when Christ returns as the glorious Davidic King promised by the prophets (Jer 23:5-6; 33:14-17; Ez 34:23-24), having overcome sin and all elements of its power over the world.  He writes that just as death came into the world through the sin of the man, Adam, the promise of victory over death has come through the resurrection of Jesus and His conquest over sin and death.  Christ is the first to be resurrected in body and spirit to new life, and those who belong to Him will also rise to a new life in both body and spirit at His Second Advent to join Him in eternity (1 Thes 4:14-18).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Mary's assumption

Although St. Paul is only referring to the resurrection of the just (verse 23), he speaks elsewhere of all humanity’s resurrection, both the righteous and the sinner (1 Cor 15:51-53; 1 Thes 4:13-17; etc.).  Mary’s bodily assumption into Heaven prefigures the resurrection of the just, and we, who have died to sin with Christ in Christian baptism, will also be resurrected to reign with Him.  However, the Virgin Mary is the one who has a special place among the redeemed because she is the mother of the Redeemer and the first Christian.  She is also the Gebirah, the Queen Mother of the Davidic King of the new and eternal Covenant.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Destruction of death

25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for “he subjected everything under his feet.

In verses 25-26, Paul refers to the destruction of death.  This event will take place at the Final Judgment.  St. John witnessed a vision of this future event in the Book of Revelation: I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened.  Then another scroll was opened, the Book of Life.  The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls.  The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead.  All the dead were judged according to their deeds.  Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire.  This pool of fire is the second death.  Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire (Rev 20:12-15; emphasis added).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Hades is not the hell of the damned

Hades is not the hell of the damned but instead the abode of the dead, Sheol in Hebrew, Hades in Greek (see CCC 633-34).  Notice in the quote from Revelation 20:12-15 that it is a state that continues to function until the end of time.  Under the old covenants, before the birth of Christ, neither blessings nor punishments were eternal.  At that time, all the dead, both the righteous and the wicked, went to Sheol/Hades.  It was a state where the righteous waited for the coming of the Messiah, and the wicked suffered in punishment for their sins (see Jesus’ description of Sheol in its two parts in Lk 16:19-31).  After Jesus descended to Sheol from His grave and liberated the dead who accepted Him as their Savior (1 Pt 3:18-20; 4:6), both blessings and judgments became eternal.  Sheol/Hades then became a purification place for the saved who died with unconfessed venial sins or for confessed and forgiven mortal sins where further atonement was still necessary (1 Cor 3:13-15).  We know this state for those destined for Heaven but still in need of soul-cleansing by the Latin word for purification: Purgatory (CCC 1030-32).  The “pool of fire” is not Sheol/Hades; it is the hell of the damned that Jesus called Gehenna (see CCC 1033-34).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Spiritual warfare

In the present age, God acts toward the world through our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. At the end of time, when Jesus returns, God’s relationship with the redeemed will be a direct one. In the meantime, Jesus’ Kingdom is in constant warfare with the forces of evil, and Christ must reign until God “has put all his enemies under his feet.” We are part of that warfare as members of the Church militant as we continue Jesus’ ministry on earth, fighting evil, caring for the venerable, and continuing to share His Gospel message of salvation.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
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Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus (UIOG) — “So that in all things may God be glorified.” (1 Peter 4:11) SOURCE: St. Peter's Abbey, Muenster, SK
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When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. — Matthew 25:31-32

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Gospel Reading

Matthew 25:31-46

INTRODUCTION — Saint Matthew makes a sweeping connection between our day-to-day choices and the end of the world.

SOURCE: LectorPrep.org (Greg Warnusz)

Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Christ’s climactic crescendo

GOSPEL—Commenting on this Gospel, Patricia Sanchez writes:

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), the great Russian author, is also a Christian who took seriously the demands of the Great Sermon (Matthew 5-7) and attempted to live his life accordingly. One day, a beggar stopped him while he was out walking and asked him for alms. Tolstoy searched his pockets for a coin but, finding none, he said with regret, “Please don’t be angry with me, my brother, but I have nothing with me; if I did, I would gladly give it to you.” At that, the beggar’s face brightened with joy. “You have given me more than I asked for,” he said, “you have called me brother!” Tolstoy had not only grasped the intent of the Great Sermon but he had also penetrated the truth of today’s Gospel. He regarded the poor man asking him for alms as a brother because he had understood and made his own the great commandment(Matthew 22:37). But he had also learned to see the face of Christ in the poor and, because of that insight, he met the criteria of judgment set forth for our consideration in this Matthean text.

So many of the important themes of Matthew’s Gospel come to a climactic crescendo in this eschatological (end times) scene. Up to this point, readers of Matthew have been told that wheat and weeds will grow together until harvest, that all species of fish will be hauled together in one net, that good and bad will grow together until the final separation. Believers have also been instructed, through many parables, with lessons of watchfulness and waiting. With this passage, it becomes evident that the time of growing together and waiting has passed, yielding to the moment of separation and judgment. In this Gospel, Jesus is revealed as the King who will judge us on the criteria of compassion for the least of our brothers and sisters. The blessed are those who have ministered to the needs of the poor. In doing so, they have ministered to Christ himself.

(Used with permission The Word We Celebrate: Commentary on the Sunday Lectionary Years A, B, C, by Patricia Sanchez, -Sheed & Ward publisher (9-1-89).

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Christ will judge those who have not served others

GOSPEL—“I was hungry and you gave me to eat (…).” We have here one of the best known parables from all of the Gospels. Found only in Matthew, this image of the Final Judgment, based on whether or not we have taken care of one another in this world,lies at the very core of Jesus’ teaching to his disciples. Matthew wanted the leaders of his Christian-Jewish community to know clearly what the bottom line was when it comes to judgment at the end of time. What standards will these leaders be judged by? For what will they be held accountable by God? How they treated Jesus! But, how they treated the Jesus who is to be found in every other human being! The works of mercy seem to have absolute priority, even over acts of worship.

The Last Great Discourse of Jesus, called the Eschatological Discourse (that is, the Last Things or teachings about judgment and reward or punishment), started in Chapter 24:1 with the prediction of the destruction of the Temple. It was followed by the forecast of the terrible things that would come upon the people of Jerusalem (The Woes!), the Great Tribulation, the Corning of the Son of Man for Judgment (like the Lesson of the Fig Tree), at a time not yet revealed (the Unknown Day and Hour), illustrated by three parables: 1. The Unfaithful Servant, 2. The Talents, 3. The Judgment of the Nations. This is where we are today: the climax of the GreatDiscourse. Separating the Sheep from the Goats: we have herea grand image for the Judgment. There will be a division. Some will be placed by God on one side,some on the other. Not everyone will end up in the same place. Behavior does matter in this world. Our behavior will have eternal consequences!

“I was hungry…!” Jesus identifies himself with those who are in any human need at all! What we do to others, we do to him. What we fail to do to others, we fail to do to him.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

The judgment of the nations

GOSPEL—The description of the last judgment begins with the triumphant Son of Man coming in glory. It’s a scene filled with references to apocalyptic images from the Hebrew Scriptures and first-century politics. This is the glorious Christ, surrounded by angelic agents of resurrection and judgment.

The parable is the crown of Jesus’ reversal stories; contemporary scholars suggest that it does not say what most people generally think it does. When the triumphant Son of Man identifies with the lowliest of his brethren, we have learned to think of them as the poor of the world. But based on how Matthew has used the terms for the lowly and brethren, most commentators suggest that they are not the poor in general; they are the Christian missionaries, the new family of Jesus, who go out representing him. This does not disparage service of the poor, it simply says that Jesus was not referring to the generic poor of the world in this parable. He was talking about his missionary disciples, the lowly ones who evangelized in his name.

A second dimension of the parable that we often fail to note is that the historical Jesus spoke of the glorious Son of Man just before he entered into his own passion, the time when he would appear in public at his weakest and most rejected. Except when we read the Gospel of John, the images of Christ in glory and Jesus who suffered in weakness and rejection seem to be polar opposites. But the parable actually weaves them together, indicating that the Son of Man will appear before humanity in hunger and thirst, imprisoned, naked and weak. He appears this way both in his historical passion and death and through those brothers and sisters who carried on his mission. Therefore, the judgment of the nations rests on whether they accept and love a God who does not mirror the powers of the world but comes among them as a suffering servant.

Pope Pius XI established this feast in 1925 as an antidote to secularism and the church’s loss of power and prestige in Europe. At a time when the Vatican had very little tolerance for democracies and freedom of religion, Pius wrote the encyclical Quas Primas which established the feast. Pius explained his hope that the fruits of the feast would give royal honors to our Lord and that “Men will doubtless be reminded that the Church [was] founded by Christ as a perfect society” (QP 31). There is evangelical irony and a sign of the work of the Spirit in the fact that the readings for the feast of Christ the King of the Universe all depict Jesus in his weakness, yet the feast itself was established in protest to the church’s loss of power and prestige.

Today, our celebration of Christ our King invites us to consider what we believe about where we and the universe are ultimately headed. Do we consider the difference the resurrection makes?

On fire until the End

The end of the world. How do you imagine it? In 1920, Robert Frost pondered this same question in the poem, “Fire and Ice”:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

The feast of Christ the King offers us three different visions of the final days. The first, from the prophet Ezekiel, suggests that, at the end of the world, God will finally appear as the good shepherd to rescue the lost and forsaken. Because the rulers and religious leaders have sought only their own good, God promises to come and seek out the lost, bind up the wounded, and provide pasture for all except the “sleek and strong.” The latter are the ones who took advantage and allowed the others to languish. On one hand, that’s a typical apocalyptic vision: The good will be vindicated and the wicked will get what they deserve. At the same time, the image of this vindicator is not the fierce warrior but a gentle shepherding God who redeems and restores what others have let languish.

Matthew’s Jesus gives us the most electrifying image of the end times. We read about how the Son of Man appears in glory, seated on a throne, surrounded by angels who gather all the world to be judged. It’s a favorite theme of fire and brimstone preachers as well as artists. We know Michelangelo’s depiction from the Sistine Chapel. The traditional Byzantine icon of this scene shows Christ seated at top center with Mary and John the Baptist on either side of him pleading for sinners. The apostles are seated around with a dragon poised below breathing the fire that consumes the condemned as they complete their fall from grace.

The image from Matthew recognizes the responsibility of the people themselves. In Ezekiel, they were passive and their fate was determined by their shepherds. They just followed where they were led — literally a lot more like sheep than human beings who have gone through adolescence and know the difference between rebellion and collaboration. In Matthew, the ones sent to the eternal fire are those who refused to give hospitality or care to those sent in Christ’s name. By spurning God’s representatives, they rejected all that God offered them. They sealed their fate by closing their doors.

The third image in today’s Scriptures comes from Paul’s faith in the universal effects of Christ’s resurrection. Paul’s vision of the end is closer to that of John the Evangelist than to Matthew. John lets us in on Jesus’ vision that in dying he would draw all to himself (John 12:32) and that through him all will be one (17:21). Paul looks to the moment when God will be all in all, when everyone is drawn into the life and love of God.

All three images come from our tradition and reveal something about God and where this universe is headed. All three images see God’s love at the heart of human history and the history of the universe itself.

The first image emphasizes God’s saving love and grace, reminding us that our life is a gift and the God named Emmanuel will be with us always. The second image reminds us that we have been given freedom and that, as we choose how to live, we are fashioning our eternal future. The third way of looking at the end goes along with what scientist theologians such as Teilhard de Chardin see as Christ the Omega Point who is drawing all creation toward being caught up in the very energy of God.

How will the world end? Our vision of where it is going will affect every step we take. There are moments when we need the comforting image of God as shepherd to assure us that what is beyond our control has not escaped the realm of God’s potential to save. At other moments, we need to be confronted with the starkness of the separation of sheep and goats, reminding us that the choices we make create our future. Both of those approaches can lead us to Paul’s mystical vision and hope for union with God and all God’s creation.

Teilhard offers us a hope and vision that go with Robert Frost’s first option. He says, “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Commentary Excerpts

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Life Recovery Bible

We are accountable to God

Ultimately we will all be accountable to God on judgment day. We will be responsible not only for our own recovery but also for how we have helped others. The last step in recovery is to tell others about our recovery and encourage them in the recovery process. Since Jesus identifies himself with those who suffer, we should follow his example and be especially alert to the needs of others.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

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Theology of Work Commentary

We are called to help those in need

Individually and corporately, we are called to help those in need. We are “bound in the bundle of the living under the care of the Lord your God” (1 Samuel 25:29), and we cannot ignore the plight of human beings suffering hunger, thirst, nakedness, homelessness, sickness, or imprisonment. We work in order to meet our own needs and the needs of those dependent on us; but we also work in order to have something to give to those in need (Hebrews 13:1-3). We join with others to find ways to come alongside those who lack the basic necessities of life that we may take for granted. If Jesus’ words in this passage are taken seriously, more may hang on our charity than we realize.

Jesus does not say exactly how the sheep served people in need. It may have been through gifts and charitable work. But perhaps some of it was through the ordinary work of growing and preparing food and drink; helping new co-workers come up to speed on the job; designing, manufacturing, and selling clothing. All legitimate work serves people who need the products and services of the work, and in so doing, serves Jesus.

SOURCE: © 2014 Theology of Work Project, Inc.; Used with permission. (Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.)

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Sermon Writer (Bible Study/Sermons)
Biblical Commentary (Bible Study) by Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, who published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale is graciously keeping his website online FREE, subscription no longer required.

Gospel Exegesis

  • THE CONTEXT
  • THE JUDGMENT OF THE NATIONS
  • THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS
  • YOU DID IT TO ME
  • YOU DIDN’T DO IT TO ME

Sermons

Sunday Readingscommentary

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Separating the sheep from the goats

The Gospel Reading uses the imagery of the Divine Shepherd separating the sheep from the goats in judging between the righteous and the wicked. In the Psalms, we acknowledge the Lord as our Divine Shepherd, who lovingly provides for the sheep of His flock who are His covenant people.

Exploring the Text

The conclusion of Jesus' teachings

Jesus went to the Temple daily to teach the people during His last visit to Jerusalem in the spring of AD 30. Our Gospel reading is the conclusion of Jesus’ teachings. He ends His public teaching ministry with a vision of the Final Judgment when the Son of Man judges all people of every nation on the earth. In verse 31, Jesus identifies Himself as the “son of man” (one who looked like a man) that the prophet Daniel saw in a vision of the Divine Messiah. Daniel saw someone who looked like a human being but who had authority from God to judge all humanity: As the visions of the night continued, I saw one like a son of man coming, on the clouds of Heaven. When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him. He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away; his kingship shall not be destroyed (Dan 7:13-14).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Individual/Particular judgment at end of life

The Church teaches that there is an individual/particular judgment at the end of each person’s life on earth (Heb 9:27; CCC 1021-22). However, at the end of time, Jesus promised His return in glory would signal the resurrection of the dead, followed by humanity’s Final Judgment (CCC 1038, 1040). Jesus’ return in glory is the event St. John describes when he wrote: Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation (Jn 5:28-29; see CCC 1038-41).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
All nations

The words “all nations” suggests Jesus is referring to the Final Judgment. After Jesus’ return as the Divine King of all nations, the dead will rise along with those still living to join Him in the clouds. This event will usher in the Final Judgment and the end of time as we know it (see Rev 20:11-15).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
As a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats

This verse recalls Ezekiel 34:17 in the First Reading: As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD, I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats. It was the practice in the ancient Near East and today with peoples who kept herds of animals to keep both the sheep and goats in the same flock. In cold weather, the shepherd had to separate them at night and take the goats into a warmer enclosure since the goat’s coats were not sufficiently heavy to keep them warm (Jeremias, Parables of Jesus, page 206). However, these sheep and goats from the same flock, meaning either the same community of covenant believers or of humanity in general, will be separated into two groups by the Divine Shepherd, who will judge the righteous sheep from the wicked goats. In the Final Judgment, all nations of the earth will face a final reckoning, including the Christians of God’s flock and all the people on earth.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Old and New Covenant Law

The declaration of Jesus’ kingship began in Matthew’s genealogy and the infancy narrative (Mt 1:1, 20; 2:2, 13-14). Matthew declares it again in the Passion narrative (Mt 27:11, 29, 37, 42). Some scholars interpret our passage to mean that there will be a separate judgment for believers and non-believers. Others suggest Jews and Gentiles will be judged separately. The second interpretation is not taught in the New Testament, nor is it a teaching of the Catholic Church. The New Covenant puts an end to the Old Covenant under which the Jews were promised future salvation through obedience to the Law (see Heb 10:8-10; CCC 614). Salvation is a gift from God alone through the sacrifice of the Redeemer-Messiah, Jesus Christ (CCC 169, 588, 600-02, 617, 620, 1811). The Old Covenant Law only offered a path to salvation under obedience to the Sinai Covenant’s commands and prohibitions.

With the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Romans in AD 70, obedience to the worship rituals under the Law of Moses and the Sinai Covenant was no longer possible. The Jerusalem Temple was the only place where the Old Covenant faithful could offer the blood of animal sacrifice in atonement for their sins and receive forgiveness (Lev chapters 4-5). From the time of the Temple’s destruction, atonement for sins was only through the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29; 1 Jn 4:10; 2 Cor 5:19; CCC 608, 620).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Works of righteousness

Jesus states that the Last Judgment will take into account one’s works of righteousness for the sake of the Savior. In His judgment, Jesus lists six unfortunate conditions and six acts of compassion in response to those conditions:

  1. hungry – gave food
  2. thirsty – gave drink
  3. stranger – welcomed
  4. naked – clothed
  5. ill – cared for
  6. in prison – visited

He equates those acts of compassion for the unfortunate with acts of love extended to Himself and to the failure to act with compassion with withholding one’s love from Him (verses 35-36 and 42-43). What is Jesus’ message concerning humanity’s relationship with Him? The answer appears in Jesus’ definition of the two greatest commandments (Mt 22:34-40; Mk 12:28-34; Lk 10:25-28) and the Letter of St. James Chapter 2. If we truly love Jesus, we will express the love we have for Him by acts of mercy to those in need of love and by showing compassion to the human family. Our acts of mercy and compassion are an expression of a living and active faith.

The Church lists the acts of compassion described in verses 35-36 among “the works of mercy” (CCC 2447). The Church imitates Christ’s love for the poor and oppressed as “part of her constant tradition” (CCC 2444). St. John Chrysostom reminded his congregation that all the material blessings we enjoy are from God, and we should not look upon them as ours alone: Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs (Homilies in Lazaro 2.5).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Sheeps and goats

As humanity’s Divine Judge, Jesus will separate the “sheep from the goats.” The sheep demonstrated their love for Christ by extending that love to those who suffer in the world. The goats are those who are either indifferent or refused to acknowledge their duty towards those who suffer. The sheep stand on the King’s right (the place of honor), and He sends the goats to the left. The sheep inherit eternal life in the kingdom prepared for them from the world’s foundation, but the goats are condemned to eternal punishment.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Identificaiton with the poor

Jesus identifies with the poor and the oppressed, and He makes the Christian’s outpouring of active love toward those who suffer a condition for entering His eternal Kingdom. We cannot hope for an eternal reward without loving God, and the love of God is tied to love and concern for our brothers and sisters in the human family (CCC 2443). St. John wrote in 1 John 3:14-15: We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him (see CCC 544, 1033).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
End of the liturgical year

The Gospel teaching describing the Final Judgment marks the end of the Liturgical year. This passage should call us to an examination of conscience in recognition that we must keep our souls pure in preparation for the event of Christ’s Second Advent that will come upon us without warning. We must remember that Christ’s return does not mark the end but a new beginning for those who love Jesus and are faithful to His command to love.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Stain-glass window from St Lawrence Jewry in London by Christopher Webb. Photo: Lawrence OP

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St. John Chrysostom

The Catena Aurea

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.

List of Church Fathers used in Aquinas' commentary

Third Century

  • Origen – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian) – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great” – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople) – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh) (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch) – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.) – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt) – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople) – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre) – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc) – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria

Matthew 25:31-46

TOGGLE BIBLE VERSES

31. When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

32. And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36. Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38. When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39. Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee

40. And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43. I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45. Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

46. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

RABANUS. After the parables concerning the end of the world the Lord proceeds to describe the manner of the judgment to come.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxix.) To this most sweet section of Scripture which we cease not continually to ponder, let us now listen with all attention and compunction of spirit, for Christ does indeed clothe this discourse with more terrors and vividness. He does not accordingly say of this as of the others, The kingdom of heaven is like, but shews of Himself by direct revelation, saying, When the Son of man shall come in his majesty.

JEROME. He who was within two days to celebrate the passover, to be delivered to the cross, and mocked by men, fitly now holds out the glory of His triumph, that He may overbalance the offences that were to follow by the promise of reward. And it is to be noted, that He who shall be seen in majesty is the Son of Man.

AUGUSTINE. (in Joan. Tr. 21.) The wicked and they also who shall be set on His right hand shall see Him in human shape, for He shall appear in the judgment in that form which He took on Him from us; but it shall be afterwards that He shall be seen in the form of God, for which all the believers long.

REMIGIUS. These words overthrow the error of those who said that the Lord should not continue in the same form of a servant. By his majesty, He means His divinity, in which He is equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

ORIGEN. Or, He shall come again with glory, that His body may be such as when He was transfigured on the mount. His throne is either certain of the more perfect of the Saints, of whom it is written, For there are set thrones in judgment; (Ps. 122:5.) or certain Angelic Powers of whom it is said, Thrones or dominions. (Col. 1:16.)

AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xx. 24.) He shall come down with the Angels whom He shall call from heavenly places to hold judgment.

CHRYSOSTOM. For all his Angels shall be with him to bear witness to the things wherein they have administered to men’s salvation at His bidding.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. 351, 8.) Or, by Angels here He means men who shall judge with Christ; for Angels are messengers, and such we rightly understand all who have brought tidings of heavenly salvation to men.

REMIGIUS. And all nations shall be gathered before Him. These words prove that the resurrection of men shall be real.

AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xx. 24.) This gathering shall be executed by the ministry of Angels, as it is said in the Psalm, Gather to him his saints. (Ps. 50:5.)

ORIGEN. Or, we need not understand this of a local gathering together, but that the nations shall be no more dispersed in divers and false dogmas concerning Him. For Christ’s divinity shall be manifested so that not even sinners shall any longer be ignorant of Him. He shall not then shew Himself as Son of God in one place and not in another; as He sought to express to us by the comparison of the lightning. So as long as the wicked know neither themselves nor Christ, or the righteous see through a glass darkly, (1 Cor. 13:12.) so long the good are not severed from the evil, but when by the manifestation of the Son of God all shall come to the knowledge of Him, then shall the Saviour sever the good from the evil; for then shall sinners see their sins, and the righteous shall see clearly to what end the seeds of righteousness in them have led. They that are saved are called sheep by reason of that mildness which they have learnt of Him who said, Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly, (Mat. 11:29.) and because they are ready to go even to death in imitation of Christ, who was led as a sheep to the slaughter. (Isa. 53:7.) The wicked, are called goats, because they climb rough and rugged rocks, and walk in dangerous places.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or, He calls the one sheep and the other goats, to denote the unprofitableness of the one, and the fruitfulness of the other, for sheep are greatly productive in fleece, milk, and lambs.

GLOSS. (non occ.) Under the figure of a sheep in Scripture is signified simplicity and innocence. Beautifully then in this place are the elect denoted by sheep.

JEROME. Also the goat is a salacious animal, and was the offering for sins in the Law; and He says not ‘she goats’ which can produce young, and come up shorn from the washing. (Song of Solomon 4:2.)

CHRYSOSTOM. Then He separates them in place.

ORIGEN. For the Saints who have wrought right works, shall receive in recompense of their right works the King’s right hand, at which is rest and glory; but the wicked for their evil and sinister deeds have fallen to the left hand, that is, into the misery of torments. Then shall the King say to those who are on his right hand, Come, that in whatsoever they are behind they may make it up when they are more perfectly united to Christ. He adds, ye blessed of my Father, to shew how eminendy blessed they were, being of old blessed of the Lord, which made heaven and earth. (Ps. 115:15.)

RABANUS. Or, they are called blessed, to whom an eternal blessing is due for their good deserts. He calls it the kingdom of His Father, ascribing the dominion of the kingdom to Him by whom Himself the King was begotten. For by His royal power, with which He shall be exalted alone in that day, He shall pronounce the sentence of judgment, Then shall the King say.

CHRYSOSTOM. Observe that He says not ‘Receive,’ but possess, or inherit, as duo to you from of old.

JEROME. This prepared for you from the foundation, of the world, is to be understood as of the foreknowledge of God, with whom things to come are as already done.

AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xx. 9.) Besides that kingdom of which He will say in the end, Inherit the kingdom prepared for you, though in a very inferior manner, the present Church is also called His kingdom, in the which we are yet in conflict with the enemy until we come to that kingdom of peace, where we shall reign without an enemy.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. 351. 8.) But one will say, I desire not to reign, it is enough for me that I be saved. Wherein they are deceived, first, because there is no salvation for those whose iniquity abounds; and, secondly, because if there be any difference between those that reign, and those that do not reign, yet must all be within the same kingdom, lest they be esteemed for foes or aliens, and perish while the others reign. Thus all the Romans inherit the kingdom of Rome, though all do not reign in it.

CHRYSOSTOM. For what the Saints obtain the boon of this heavenly kingdom He shews when He adds, I was an hungred, and ye gave me to eat.

REMIGIUS. And it is to be noted, that the Lord here enumerates six works of mercy which whoso shall study to accomplish shall be entitled to the kingdom prepared for the chosen from the foundation of the world.

RABANUS. Mystically, He who with the bread of the word and the drink of wisdom refreshes the soul hungering and thirsting after righteousness, or admits into the home of our mother the Church him who is wandering in heresy or sin, or who strengthens the weak in faith, such an one discharges the obligations of true love.

GREGORY. (Mor. xxvi. 27.) These, to whom as they stand on His right hand the Judge at His coming shall say, I was an hungred &c. are they who are judged on the side of the elect, and who reign; who wash away the stains of their life with tears; who redeem former sins by good deeds following; who, whatever unlawful thing they have at any time done, have covered it from the Judge’s eyes by a cloak of alms. Others indeed there are who are not judged, yet reign, who have gone even beyond the precepts of the Law in the perfection of their virtue.

ORIGEN. It is from humility that they declare themselves unworthy of any praise for their good deeds, not that they are forgetful of what they have done. But He shews them His close sympathy with His own.

RABANUS. Lord, when sate we thee &c. This they say not because they distrust the Lord’s words, but they are in amaze at so great exaltation, and at the greatness of their own glory; or because the good which they have done will seem to them to be so small according to that of the Apostle, For the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us. (Rom. 8:18.)

JEROME. It were indeed free to us to understand that it is Christ in every poor man whom we feed when he is hungry, or give drink to when he is thirsty, and so of other things; but when He says, In that ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, He seems tome not to speak of the poor generally, but of the poor in spirit, those to whom He pointed and said, Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother. (Matt. 12:50.)

CHRYSOSTOM. But if they are His brethren, why does He call them the least? Because they are lowly, poor, and outcast. By these He means not only the monks who have retired to the mountains, but every believer though he should be secular, though an hungred, or the like, yet He would have him obtain merciful succours, for baptism and communication of the Divine mysteries makes him a brother.

ORIGEN. As He had said to the righteous, Come ye, so He says to the wicked, Depart ye, for they who keep God’s commandment are near to the Word, and are called that they may be made more near; but they are far from it, though they may seem to stand hard by, who do not His commands; therefore it is said to them, Depart ye, that those who seemed to be living before Him, might be no more seen. It should be remarked, that though He had said to the Saints, Ye blessed of my Father, He says not now, Ye cursed of my Father, because of all blessing the Father is the author, but each man is the origin of his own curse when he does the things that deserve the curse. They who depart from Jesus fall into eternal fire, which is of a very different kind from that fire which we use. For no fire which we have is eternal, nor even of any long continuance. And note, that He does not say, ‘the kingdom prepared for the Angels,’ as He does say everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his Angels; because He did not, as far as in Him lay, create men to perdition, but sinners yoke themselves to the Devil, so that as they that are saved are made equal to the holy Angels, they that perish are made equal with the Devil’s Angels.

AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xxi. 10.) It is hence clear, that the same fire will be appropriated to the punishment of men and of dæmons. If then it inflicts pain by corporeal touch, so as to produce bodily torment, how will there be in it any punishment for the evil spirits, unless the dæmons have, as some have thought, bodies composed of gross and fluid air. But if any man asserts that the dæmons have no bodies, we would not pugnaciously contend the point. For why may we not say, that truly, though wonderfully, even incorporeal spirit can feel pain of corporeal fire? If the spirits of men, though themselves incorporeal, can be now inclosed in bodily limbs, they can then be inseparably attached to the bonds of body. The dæmons then will be united to a body of material fire, though themselves immaterial, drawing punishment from their body, not giving life to it. And that fire being material will torture such bodies as ours with their spirits; but the dæmons are spirits without bodies.

ORIGEN. Or it may be that fire is of such nature that it can but invisible substances, being itself invisible, as the Apostle speaks, The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:18.) Wonder not when you hear that there is a fire which though unseen has power to torture, when you see that there is an internal fever which comes upon men, and pains them grievously. It follows, I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat. It is written to the believers, Ye are the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 12:27.) As then the soul dwelling in the body, though it hungers not in respect of its spiritual substance, yet hungers for the food of the body, because it is yoked to the body; so the Saviour suffers whatever His body the Church suffers, though He Himself be impassible. And observe how in speaking to the righteous He reckons up their good deeds under their several kinds, but to the unrighteous He cuts short the description under the one head, I was sick and in prison, and ye visited me not, because it was the part of a merciful Judge to enlarge and dwell upon men’s good deeds, but to pass lightly and cursorily over their evil deeds.

CHRYSOSTOM. Observe how they had failed in mercifulness, not in one or two respects only, but in all; not only did they not feed Him when He was hungry, but they did not even visit Him when He was sick, which was easier. And look how light things He enjoins; He said not, I was in prison, and ye did not set me free, but, and ye visited me not. Also His hunger required no costly dainties, but necessary food. Each of these counts then is enough for their punishment. First, the slightness of His prayer, viz. for bread; secondly, the destitution of Him who sought it, for He was poor; thirdly, the natural feelings of compassion, for He was a man; fourthly, the expectation of His promise, for He promised a kingdom; fifthly, the greatness of Him who received, for it is God who receives in the poor man; sixthly, the preeminent honour, in that He condescended to take of men; and, seventhly, the righteousness of so bestowing it, for what He takes from us is our own. But avarice blinds men to all these considerations.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) They to whom this is said are the wicked believers, who are judged and perish; others, being unbelievers, are not judged and perish; for there is no examination of the condition of such as appear before the face of an impartial Judge already condemned by their unbelief; but those who hold the profession of the faith, but have not the works of their profession, are convicted that they may be condemned. These at least hear the words of their Judge, because they have at least kept the words of His faith. The others hear no words of their Judge pronouncing sentence of condemnation, because they have not paid Him honour even in word. For a prince who governs an earthly kingdom punishes after a different manner the rebellion of a subject and the hostile attempts of an enemy; in the former case, he recurs to his prerogative; against an enemy he takes arms, and does not ask what penalty the law attaches to his crime.

CHRYSOSTOM. Thus convicted by the words of the Judge, they make answer submissively, Lord, when saw we thee &c.

ORIGEN. Mark how the righteous dwell upon each word, while the unrighteous answer summarily, and not going through the particular instances; for so it becomes the righteous out of humility to disclaim each individual generous action, when imputed to them publicly; whereas bad men excuse their sins, and endeavour to prove them few and venial. And Christ’s answer conveys this. And to the righteous He says, In that ye did it to my brethren, to shew the greatness of their good deeds; to the sinners He says only, to one of the least of these, not aggravating their sin. For they are truly His brethren who are perfect; and a deed of mercy shewn to the more holy is more acceptable to God than one shewn to the less holy; and the sin of overlooking the less holy is less than of overlooking the more holy.

AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xx. 1.) He is now treating of the last judgment, when Christ shall come from heaven to judge the quick and dead. This day of the Divine judgment we call the Last Day, that is, the end of time; for we cannot tell through how many days that judgment will be prolonged; but day, as is the use of holy Scripture, is put for time. And we therefore call it the last or latest judgment, because He both now judges and has judged from the beginning of the human race, when He thrust forth the first man from the tree of life, and spared not the Angels that sinned. But in that final judgment both men and Angels shall be judged together, when the Divine power shall bring each man’s good and evil deeds in review before his memory, and one intuitive glance shall present them to the perception, so that at once we shall be condemned or acquitted in our consciences.

AUGUSTINE. (de Fid. et Op. 15.) Some deceive themselves, saying, that the fire indeed is called everlasting, but not the punishment. This the Lord foreseeing, sums up His sentence in these words.

ORIGEN. Observe that whereas He put first the invitation, Come, ye blessed, and after that, Depart, ye cursed, because it is the property of a merciful God to record the good deeds of the good, before the bad deeds of the bad; He now reverses the order, describing first the punishment of the wicked, and then the life of the good, that the terrors of the one may deter us from evil, and the honour of the other incite us to good.

GREGORY. (Mor. xv. 19.) If he who has not given to others is visited with so heavy a punishment, what shall he get who is convicted of having robbed others of their own.

AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xix. 11.) Eternal life is our chief good, and the end of the city of God, of which the Apostle speaks, And the end everlasting life. (Rom. 6:22.) But because eternal life might be understood by those who are not well versed in Holy Scripture, to mean also the life of the wicked, because of the immortality of their souls, or because of the endless torments of the wicked; therefore we must call the end of this City in which the chief good shall be attained, either peace in life eternal, or life eternal in peace, that it may be intelligible to all.

AUGUSTINE. (de Trin. i. 8.) That which the Lord spoke to His servant Moses, I am that I am, (Exod. 3:14.) this we shall contemplate when we shall live in eternity. For thus the Lord speaks, This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God. (John 17:3.) This contemplation is promised to us as the end of all action, and the eternal perfection of our joys, of which John speaks, We shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2.)

JEROME. Let the thoughtful reader observe that punishments are eternal, and that that continuing life has thenceforward no fear of fall.

GREGORY. (Mor. xxxiv. 19.) They say that He held out empty terrors to deter them from sin. We answer, if He threatened falsely to check unrighteousness, then He promised falsely to promote good conduct. Thus while they go out of the way to prove God merciful, they are not afraid to charge Him with fraud. But, they urge, finite sin ought not to be visited with infinite punishment; we answer, that this argument would be just, if the righteous Judge considered men’s actions, and not their hearts. Therefore it belongs to the righteousness of an impartial Judge, that those whose heart would never be without sin in this life, should never be without punishment.

AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xxi. 11.) And the justice of no law is concerned to provide that the duration of each man’s punishment should be the same with the sin which drew that punishment upon him. There never was any man, who held that the torment of him, who committed a murder or adultery, should be compressed within the same space of time as the commission of the act. And when for any enormous crime a man is punished with death, does the law estimate his punishment by the delay that takes place in putting him to death, and not rather by this, that they remove him for ever from the society of the living? And fines, disgrace, exile, slavery, when they are inflicted without any hopes of mercy, do they not seem like eternal punishments in proportion to the length of this life? They are only therefore not eternal, because the life which suffers them is not itself eternal. But they say, How then is that true which Christ says, With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again, (Matt. 7:2.) if temporal sin is punished with eternal pain? They do not observe that this is said with a view, not to the equality of the period of time, but of the retribution of evil, i. e. that he that has done evil should suffer evil. Man was made worthy of everlasting evil, because he destroyed in himself that good which might have eternal.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But they say, no just man takes pleasure in cruelties, and the guilty servant was scourged to correct his fault. But when the wicked are given over to hell fire, to what purpose shall they burn there for ever? We reply, that Almighty God, seeing He is good, does not delight in the torments of the wretched; but forasmuch as He is righteous, He ceases not from taking vengeance on the wicked; yet do the wicked burn not without some purpose, namely, that the righteous may acknowledge how they are debtors for eternity to Divine grace, when they see the wicked suffering for eternity misery, which themselves have escaped only by the assistance of that Divine grace.

AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xxi. 3.) But, they assert, nobody can be at once capable of suffering pain, and incapable of death. It must be that one live in pain, but it need not be that pain kill him; for not even these mortal bodies die from every pain; but the reason that some pain causes their death is, that the connection between the soul and our present body is such that it gives way to extreme pain. But then the soul shall be united to such a body, and in such a way, that no pain shall be able to overcome the connection. There will not then be no death, but an everlasting death, the soul being unable to live, as being without God, and equally unable to rid itself of the pains of body by dying.

AUGUSTINE. (17.) Among these impugners of the eternity of punishment, Origen is the most merciful, who believed that the Devil himself and his Angels, after sufferings proportioned to their deserts, and a long endurance, should be delivered from those torments, and associated with the holy Angels. But for these and other things he was not undeservedly rebuked by the Church, because even his seeming mercy was thrown away, making for the saints real pains in which their sins were to be expiated, and fictitious blessedness, if the joys of the good were not to be secure and endless. In quite another way does the mercy of others err through their humane sympathies, who think that the sufferings of those men who are condemned by this sentence will be temporal, but that the happiness of those who are set free sooner or later will be eternal. Why does their charity extend to the whole race of man, but dries up when they come to the angelic race?

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But they say, How can they be called Saints, if they shall not pray for their enemies whom they see then burning? They do not indeed pray for their enemies, so long as there is any possibility of converting their hearts to a profitable penitence, but how shall they pray for them when any change from their wickedness is no longer possible?

AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xxi. 19, 20. &c.) So some there are who hold out liberation from punishment not to all men, but to those only who have been washed in Christ’s Baptism, and have been partakers of His Body, let them have lived as they will; because of that which the Lord speaks, If any man eat of this bread, he shall not die eternally. (John 6:51.) Again, others promise this not to all who have Christ’s sacrament, but to Catholics only, however ill their lives, who have eaten Christ’s Body, not in sacrament only, but in verity, (inasmuch as they are set in the Church, which is His Body,) even though they should afterwards have fallen into heresy or idolatry of the Gentiles. And others again, because of what is written above, He that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved, (Matt. 24:13.) promise this only to those who persevere in the Catholic Church, that by the worthiness of their foundation, that is, of their faith, they shall be saved by fire. All these the Apostle opposes when he says, The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, uncleanness, fornication, and the like; of which I tell you before, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19.) Whoever in his heart prefers temporal things to Christ, Christ is not his foundation, though he seem to have the faith of Christ. How much more then is he, who has committed things unlawful, convicted of not preferring Christ, but preferring other things to Him? I have also met with some who thought that only those would burn in eternal torments who neglected to give alms proportioned to their sins; and for this reason they think that the Judge Himself here mentions nothing else that He shall make enquiry of, but of the giving or not giving alms. But whoso gives alms worthily for his sins, first begins with himself; for it were unmeet that he should not do that to himself which he does to others when he has heard the words of God, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, (Matt. 22:39.) and hears likewise, Be merciful to thy soul in pleasing God? (Ecclus. 30:24.) He then who does not to his own soul this alms of pleasing God, how can he be said to give alms meet for his sins? Why we are to give alms then is only that when we pray for mercy for sins past, we may be heard; not that we may purchase thereby license for continuing in sin. And the Lord forewarns us that He will put alms done on the right hand, and on the left alms not done, to hew us how mighty are alms to do away former sins, not to give impunity to a continuance in sin.

ORIGEN. Or, It is not one kind of righteousness only that is rewarded, as many think. In whatsoever matters any one does Christ’s commands, he gives Christ meat and drink, Who feeds ever upon the truth and righteousness of His faithful people. So do we weave raiment for Christ when cold, when taking wisdom’s web, we inculcate upon others, and put upon them bowels of mercy. Also when we make ready with divers virtues our heart for receiving Him, or those who are His, we take Him in a stranger into the home of our bosom. Also when we visit a brother sick either in faith or in good works, with doctrine, reproof, or comfort, we visit Christ Himself. Moreover, all that is here, is the prison of Christ, and of them that are His, who live in this world, as though chained in the prison of natural necessity. When we do a good work to these; we visit them in prison, and Christ in them.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000Commentary in public domain.
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