Last Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Nov. 26
“I, the Lord, have spoken” (Ezek. 34:24). The Word of God is alive and creative. The Lord speaks and it is so. God creates, sustains, and observes in love all being, and yet God is not indifferent to evil designs and the harm they unleash. “The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). What, according to the Bible, does God say and do in the face of widespread injustice, the abuse of the weak by the strong?
“I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide” (Ezek. 34:20-21). There is an answer, an intervention, a sweeping litany of caring acts on behalf of the weak, all punctuated with the personal pronoun I. “I, the Lord, have spoken.” “I myself will search for my sheep,” “I will seek,” “I will rescue,” “I will bring them out,” “I will feed them,” “I will make them lie down,” “I will bring back the strayed,” “I will bind up the injured,” “I will strengthen the weak,” “I will save the flock,” “I will set over them one shepherd,” “I will be their God” (Ezek. 34:11-16, 20-24).
Precisely how and when this intervention occurs is left to our imagining. “Concerning that day and hour no one knows” (Matt. 24:36). What is not left an open question is how to wait. Stay awake. Watch. Be vigilant. The Nicene Creed, in the original Greek, evokes urgency by using the present participle in reference to a final judgment. “Jesus Christ coming” (ἐρχόμενον) again to judge the living and the dead. The Latin version uses the future participle (venturus est) to suggest an immediate future: “He is about to come.” The future tense in the customary English translation may be taken to suggest a long delay, as if nothing is impending. No! Christ the King is about to come. That is the proper manner of Christian waiting in every generation. He is coming. He is at the door. The end is near.
Already, God is acting. God once said to Moses, “I have come down to deliver [my people] from the Egyptians” (Ex. 3:8). God will do what he will do, though often through frail human vessels. “So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:10). Jesus says to his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). He says to Peter, “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep” (John 21:15-17). Jesus still sends his disciples to feed and tend and protect and encourage and heal. It is urgent and necessary work flowing directly from the ministry and grace of Christ. The Church is God’s hidden and mysterious intervention.
What then are we to do? Do we simply run in every direction, compulsive and impetuous in our desire to do good deeds? Do we use other people to prove our goodness? God forbid! Here a long pause and deep stillness are required; maturity and wisdom. God wants us to feed and tend, in works humble or great, out of nothing more than compassion, without any thought of doing some extraordinary thing, without conscious thought even of God. “When did we see you?” Jesus disappears in every good work. He is every human need and every work of compassion, though hidden in darkness. “He vanished from their sight” (Luke 24:31).
Look It Up: Read Matthew 25:37.
Think About It: Practice not seeing Jesus. Live your life and draw near to others in loving compassion.