"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
November 20, 2011: Solemnity of Chris the King
• Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Synopsis: Ezekiel was a prophet during the Babylonian Captivity in the sixth century B.C. His name means “God strengthens.” He was the son of a priest and, therefore, probably a priest himself when he was taken into exile in 598 B.C.
In the first part of the book, Ezekiel condemns the idolatry and the wickedness of his people, warning them of impending doom if they didn’t change. The second half of the book, written after the destruction of Jerusalem, is full of hope. It contains oracles about the restoration of the Temple and how God himself would return to lead his people.
The first reading is from this second part. In contrast to the corrupt “shepherds” of Israel who neglected the flock and profaned the Temple (34:1-21) God himself would be their shepherd. He will “seek the lost,” Ezekiel says, “bring back the strayed, bind up the crippled and strengthen the weak.”
But then, after gathering them together, God will judge them. This imagery will be taken up by Jesus in this week’s parable about the sheep and goats. The second reading is about the Last Judgment when “all shall be brought to life.” It’s not just the righteous who will be raised; everyone, good and bad alike, will one day stand face-to-face with Christ who reigns over all.
Finally, this week’s Gospel reading is the familiar parable about the sheep and goats. The goats, perhaps because of their stubborn disposition, represent those who rebel against God, question his authority and refuse to help those in need. On the other hand sheep, because of the their more docile nature, represent those who love God and readily do his will.
Key Verse: “He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Cor 15:26).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The resurrection of all the dead, ‘of both the just and the unjust,’ will precede the Last Judgment. This will be the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear the Son of Man's voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment” (No. 1039).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The second coming of the Lord is not only salvation, not only the omega that sets everything right, but also judgment. The final stage of the world is not the result of a natural current but the result of responsibility that is grounded in freedom. At the end men are judged by their works and that no one can escape giving account of the way he has lived his life” (“Introduction to Christianity”).
Life application: The readings this week are a sober reminder that one day each of us will have to give an account of our lives. While it’s true that we are saved by Christ’s utterly free gift of grace, we will be judged by what we did with that gift (see last week’s Gospel reading about the servants and the talents). It’s not enough to receive the Eucharist and then go on as before. If we’re not changed by our encounter with Christ at Mass, something’s wrong.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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