Accepting God’s Grace

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2016/05/01 at 12:00 AM

• In the 25th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives us this grand vision of how, at the Final Judgment, He will judge each of us just as a good shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (cf. Mt 25:31-46).
• Jesus tells us that He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. To the sheep He will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” And they will inherit eternal life (Mt 25:34).
• And to the goats Jesus will say, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” and these will go off to eternal punishment (Mt. 25:41).
• Our Lord explains in this very important passage that each of us will be grouped with either the sheep or the goats based on our love for Him shown in our service to others in need. Specifically, Jesus speaks about fulfilling the corporal works of mercy.
• Does this mean that we can earn our way to Heaven simply by serving the poor? Of course not. We are saved by God’s grace, not by our works.
• However, although God’s saving grace is freely extended to all people, we must choose to accept or refuse His grace. Our willingness to serve Christ by serving the poor is a sign that we’ve accepted His grace. It’s a sign of our willingness to fulfill the great command to love.
• As our Gospel for today explains, we must listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow it. Christ calls each of us by name and leads us, and we who recognize His voice willingly follow the path He marks out for us.
• If we wished to be saved, we must choose to be one of His sheep by being obedient to His commandments, most especially the command to love Him above all else and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
• Yet, our Gospel makes clear that Christ is also the gate through which we enter into salvation. The sheepfold – the pasture – within which we find salvation is His Body, the Church. Christ is both priest and victim; He is both shepherd and sheepgate.
• To believe that we can find salvation through anyone other than Christ, or to allow ourselves to be shepherded by those who are not faithful to His teachings is like placing ourselves into the hands of thieves and robbers, who come “only to steal and slaughter and destroy.”
• Christ alone is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can go to the Father except through Him! (John 14:6)
• Through our baptism, we enter into the Church – into our Lord’s sheepfold, and once in the Church we are shepherded by Christ’s teachings, which are safeguarded by His Church and communicated by His faithful shepherds, each of whom is an alter Christus.
• But remember my brothers and sisters: we must choose for Christ! This is a choice we must continue to make daily, even once we are inside His sheepfold!
• Even though our choice for Christ is made in a fundamental way at our baptism, we must renew our choice for Him constantly, for in our brokenness, we are often prone to wander far from Him.
• As we consider His great love and mercy that we celebrated 2 weeks ago on Divine Mercy Sunday, why wouldn’t we choose Him? Jesus offers to us His unfathomable mercy, which is unlimited as long as we live on this earth.
• Not only are the worst of sinners welcome to partake of our Lord’s mercy, but Jesus said to St. Faustina that the worst sinners have the greatest right to His mercy!
• Jesus is the Good Shepherd who willingly lays down His life for His sheep. Our Savior allowed His Sacred Heart to be ripped wide open by a cruel centurion’s lance so that all mankind could find a home there!
• That wound caused by Longinus’ lance not only opened up the sacramental life of the Church; it opened up the floodgates of God’s mercy!
• In our first reading we see St. Peter proclaiming to the house of Israel that Jesus, whom they crucified, is indeed the Christ! He sets the choice before them: they can either accept Jesus as their Lord or deny Him – but they have to choose.
• St. Peter tells the crowd that choosing for Christ requires that we repent of our sins. It requires that we turn away from the corruption of our generation.
• Once inside our Lord’s sheepfold, we must follow Christ by imitating Him in every aspect of our lives. In all things we must seek the Father’s will rather than our own will.
• Yet as the second reading today makes clear, following Christ and doing the Father’s will sometimes means that we are going to suffer – just like He did.
• But, my dear friends, this should not be a cause for anxiety or worry for us. For when we look with the eyes of faith, we can see that suffering is often the sweetest gift God gives us to us because suffering borne with patience really helps to shape us into an image of Christ.
• As St. Peter tells us today in our second reading, “if [we] are patient when [we] suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.”
• Just as the rough grit of sandpaper is used to smooth and shape wood into something beautiful, so too does suffering smooth the rough patches of our soul caused by sin so that we may be shaped into something more beautiful.
• So just as God the Father allowed His only begotten Son to suffer so that we might be redeemed, our Lord allows us to suffer so that we may imitate His Son, make reparation for our sins, and be strengthened in virtue.
• When we willingly accept our sufferings and unite them to Christ’s suffering on the cross, we console our Lord!
• Truly, if Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd, leads us by way of the path of suffering, we can be certain that it is probably because we need it for our own growth in holiness.
• Allowing us to suffer then, is a way that our Lord shows us His mercy, and we can be certain that as the Good Shepherd He will lead us through the path of suffering into greener pastures.
• My dear friends, as our Lord’s precious sheep, we must train ourselves to know the voice of the Shepherd. And as we learn to hear the voice of the Lord, let us strengthen our wills so that we may follow Him unreservedly, even when He leads us by the path of suffering.
• For by faithfully following Him who loves us more than we can ever imagine, and by imitating Him in all things – even in suffering – we will be covered in His mercy and inherit eternal life.

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
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