What do John 10 and Matthew 25:31-Matthew 26:1 have to do with the readings for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time?

lionOnly lions, tigers, and other predators have reason for rules of etiquette. The Gospel reading is about the twelve and who is first. The first write rules of etiquette. Like our modern pushers of etiquette, the main push was for where one sat.

The sheep of his flockSheep are fussy eaters, their mouths specialized for eating grass. Goats are mixed feeders, eating plant life which is above the ground, leaves, berry stalks... Sheep are communal, goats individualists and innovators. Goats have fighting horns to defend their space. Sheep require others to defend them This requires sheep herders to have goats.

When Jesus speaks of separating the sheep from the goats, he speaks of separating the guard from the communal animals. Matthew 25:31-26:1 is about communal people.

Predators are about competition. Predators establish rules to protect themselves. Otherwise, they will compete and destroy each other. Predatory/competitive people need etiquette. The sheep eat grass; there is plenty of grass for everybody.

GoatIn the first reading, “The Russia say: Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us…” “Russia/wicked” is Hebrew with the same root as “Rosh,” as in “Rosh Hashanah,” or head, first of the year. “Russia,” think themselves first. They are the goats/competitors of the human world.

James presents,” Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder… The wisdom from above is first pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, and full of mercy… The fruit of charitableness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.” This is being like sheep. “Talah,” lamb is the Aramaic base for “Talitah,” child.

Our Gospel brings up who will be first. James and John come to Jesus using bad etiquette. In bad faith, they choose to engage in office politics. They come behind the other apostles trying to win first chair. The others complain to Jesus about this use of bad etiquette, this bad brown nosing to win the game. They all engage in back biting office politics; they just want competition using good etiquette. Jesus hates the office politics of who is first. Talah/talitah, need no etiquette, no office politics.

Jewish justice springs from the escape from Egypt. “Bring me your tired, your poor, those yearning to breathe free. Bring these, the tempest tost to me.” “As Christ died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.” It is tied to being rescued from over there, wherever ‘Over there.”  It is about feeling the pains of being ‘Over there,” and the sense of freedom coming from being ‘Over here,” and bringing that sense of rescue to others. There is no room for who is first.

Jesus tells us to be like Talitha’ lambs/children. Jesus and James teach people to be like sheep. They are about helping all the sheep to find that plentiful grass, to be healthy and happy. Are we rugged individualists, individuals like the goats, or do we desire to be the sheep of God? Read Matthew 25 again and see what happens to the goats.


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