Present Sheep


Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, March 7, 2021

When our Lord and Savior instructs us to love everyone without preference, we must never allow anyone to convince us otherwise. In the kingdom of God there can be neither apathy nor prejudice.

Quoting Pope Francis speaking in the ancient city of Ur, "the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters." Blasphemers, it goes without saying, cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.

God comes to us in the ordinary. In the tiny details of life. In nature, in the small nooks and crannies of daily life and in everyone we meet or even think about. In all of this we are called to be faithful bearers of one another's burdens "in order to fulfill the Law of Christ."

There is only one Law of Christ: to love and to care for one another. There are no prerequisites or boundaries to this love. It is to be shared with the entire world by direct and concrete action.

And this includes feeding the hungry and all that Jesus enumerates in this parable and something even more all-encompassing: to be more kind, more positive, less toxic, more compassionate and nurturing of others, To live in this world as if the kingdom of God has come and we are his servants, his heart, his eyes, his ears and his hands, his Body.  That is the remedy for the black hole of suffering that yawns before us in every direction.

The Parable of the Sheep and Goats is not about future things. It is about the present. The last judgment is merely the background for a parable.

For example, here is something contemporary to think about which is very much on our minds. We cannot hate or claim supremacy over our black and brown brothers and sisters and at the same time claim to love God. St. John calls such people liars devoid of truth. After all, the failure to love is not an action of a supreme godly man or woman, but of sinful, fearful and insecure ones. They betray their imagined supremacy with their hateful words and deeds. Only God is supreme.

In the Divine Liturgy we give thanks that God has "endowed us with his kingdom which is to come." After all, what is time to God? The past and future are present to him and each present moment is pregnant with the kingdom and therefore is eternal. The present moment is the tiniest house of God and the womb of eternity.

The cure for suffering is to care, actively, concretely and personally as Christ cares. His perfect will stands before us at this and every moment offering us a way to fulfill his one commandment. "Love one another," he instructs, "as I have loved you." So, our choice now is whether to accept the invitation to live inside or outside his kingdom and make of ourselves either sheep or goats. We know what God desires. The choice is ours to make.