The metaphor of the shepherd and the flock – usually the sheep – is quite prominent in the Bible. God is the Shepherd and Israel the sheep. Likewise, the king, as God’s servant and representative is a shepherd over his people.
The last Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 29) is designated Christ the King Sunday and invokes much about the relationship between a king or a shepherd and his flock. In the First Reading (Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24) we find this relationship powerfully conveyed in the verbs used: “I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out”. There is more. “I will rescue them…I will bring them out…and gather them…and I will feed them…and I will make them lie down… and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak” and so on.
Now, think of this shepherd, and think of the other Readings for this Sunday. And think of Jesus, the King we wait for expectantly in the Advent Season. But, Christ the King Sunday also marks the end of the liturgical church calendar, as the following Sunday begins the Advent Season. It is a time of reckoning, taking inventory and – metaphorically – look at oneself in the spiritual mirror. How have we lived and how do we relate to one another?
For many the Gospel Reading for this Sunday from Matthew 25: 31- 46 is the plumb line. Some churches even have ministries labeled Matthew 25. How have we, and how do we relate to the marginalized, the vulnerable and the needy? In essence, it boils down to how we relate to one another because at the core, each one of us – perceptions notwithstanding – is, to a certain extent, needy, vulnerable (Ps. 40:17; 70:5; 109:22).
Perhaps the best mirror for this self-examination for everyone, is the holiday season.