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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: November 23, 2014
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at confirmation Masses at St. Joseph Church in Fayetteville, on Nov. 22, 2014, and St. Peter the Fisherman Church in Mountain Home, on Nov. 23, 2014.
The shepherd's staff (which we call a crozier) which I carry as bishop is a reminder to me and to you of my role as shepherd of the flock that the Lord has entrusted to my care. And, unfortunately, in this flock there are both sheep and goats.
In today's Gospel we see that the sheep are those who do the corporal works of mercy: caring for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill and the imprisoned. If they keep it up, Jesus will say to them on judgment day: "Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." My role in their regard is to do what I can to nurture their faith, keep them on the right path and empower them to go forth and transform the world as agents in what Pope Francis calls a "revolution of tenderness."
But also in the flock entrusted to my care are goats who for whatever reason — usually fear or selfishness — turn their backs on those who are in need and nowhere is this more the case in today's America than regarding how we treat undocumented immigrants and refugees, the refusal to welcome the stranger. In the case of these goats, my role as shepherd requires me to speak clearly and even sternly in an effort to save their souls.
I would be failing in my duty as your shepherd if I did not act decisively and speak clearly when I see part of the flock headed for disaster.
Last year I had a series of email exchanges with a man who likes to think of himself as a good Catholic, but whose heart is far from the Lord on the topic of welcoming strangers. His emails were full of invective and fear, and after responding patiently to the concerns he raised, I finally had to draw his attention to today's Gospel and warn him that he was aligning himself with the goats and that he'd better convert if he wanted to save his soul. This isn't about politics, it is about salvation!
What did Jesus say? "Depart from me you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome ..." and so on. "'Amen I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King and in today's Gospel he tells us what it will take to get into his kingdom. Not only is he king, he's also legislator and judge, and now we know clearly at least part of the basis on which we will be judged. Indeed, this is the only place where Jesus even addresses this topic, so obviously he intends us to take his words very seriously. And I would be failing in my duty as your shepherd if I did not act decisively and speak clearly when I see part of the flock headed for disaster.
Some in the flock are sheep and some, unfortunately, are goats ... and the determining factor is what we do when faced with people in need. Which are you? That decision will determine whether you have a place in God's kingdom!