By Deacon Ken and Marie Finn
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Pray and ask God to speak to you through His Holy Spirit.
“THE PARACLETE, THE HOLY SPIRIT WHOM THE FATHER WILL SEND IN MY NAME, WILL INSTRUCT YOU IN EVERYTHING, AND REMIND YOU OF ALL THAT I TOLD YOU.” (JOHN 14:26)
FIRST DAY Reread last week’s readings.
- What was a helpful or new thought from the readings or from the homily you heard on Sunday?
- From what you learned, what personal application did you choose to apply to your life this week?
SECOND DAY READ EZEKIEL 34:11-12, 15-17 FIRST READING
(“I myself will give them rest, says the Lord God.”)
- What does the Lord God say he will do when he finds himself among his scattered sheep? Ezekiel 34:11-12
- What will he do to those who were scattered when it was cloudy and dark? Ezekiel 34:12
- What did God do when we were in the power of darkness? Colossians 1:13
- Who does the Lord say will pasture his sheep and give them rest? Ezekiel 34:15
- Who does Jesus say he is? John 10:11, 14
- Whom will the Lord seek out, whom will he bring back,whom will he bind up, and whom will he heal? Ezekiel 34:16
- What did the Son of Man (Jesus) come to do? Luke 19:10
- Whom does the Lord heal? Isaiah 61:1
- What does the Lord do to the sleek and the strong, thus shepherding them rightly? Ezekiel 34:16
- Who is singled out in this world to shame the strong? 1 Corinthians 1:27-28
- Between what does the Lord God judge? Ezekiel 34:17
Personal – How have you been healed by the Lord, and in what way has he brought you back when you went astray? What wounds has he bound up in you? Spend a few minutes in thanksgiving to the Lord.
THIRD DAY READ 1 CORINTHIANS 15:20-26, 28 SECOND READING
(“Just as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will come to life again.”)
- From what has Christ been raised, and of whom is he the first fruits? 1 Corinthians 15:20
- To what will he who raised Christ bring your mortal bodies, and how will he do it? Romans 8:11
- Whom will God bring forth with Jesus from the dead? 1 Thessalonians 4:14
- How did death come, how did the resurrection of the dead come, and what is the proper order? 1 Corinthians 15:21-23
- To whom did Adam listen, and what did God forbid him to do? Genesis 3:17
- To whom did this single offense bring condemnation, and what did a single righteous act do? Romans 5:18
- Who will come down from heaven at the word of command, what will happen to those who have died in Christ, and what will happen to the living? 1 Thesselonians 4:16-17
- When the end comes what will be destroyed, and what will be handed over to God the Father? 1 Corinthians 15:24
- How long must Christ reign, and what is the last enemy? 1 Corinthians 15:25-26
- Where is Christ seated, and of what is he the head? Ephesians 1:20-23
- Through what has Christ robbed death of its power and brought life and immortality into clear light? 2 Timothy 1:10
- When all has been subjected to the Son, to whom will he then subject himself, and why? 1 Corinthians 15:28
Personal – In what way has fear of death been destroyed in you? Check off on the list below those to whom you have been listening when making decisions: mother, father, wife, husband, daughter, son, friend, pastor, God’s Word.
FOURTH DAY READ MATTHEW 25:31-46 GOSPEL
(“I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me.”)
- When the Son of Man comes in his glory, who will escort him; where will he sit, and who will be assembled before him? Matthew 25:31-32
- How will those assembled be separated? Matthew 25:32-33
- How does one receive his recompense, good or bad? 2 Corinthians 5:10
- What will the king say to those on his right and for what reason? Matthew 25:34-36
- What kind of fasting does the Lord desire? Isaiah 58:6-7
- Who is the virtuous and the one who shall live? Ezekiel 18:7-9
- What did the just man ask the Lord, and of what did the king assure him? Matthew 25:37-40
- How does Jesus say we discover who we are, and when we welcome others, whom do we also welcome? Matthew 10:39-40
- What will the king say to those on the left, for whom is the everlasting fire prepared, and what did they neglect to do? Matthew 25:41-43
- What does God’s Word say about faith? James 2:14-17
- What will those on the left ask, and what will he answer? Matthew 25:44-45
- What will happen to those who neglected one of the least ones, and what will happen to the just? Matthew 25:46
Personal – In what ways have you given food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty? This week, have you welcomed a stranger, clothed the naked, comforted the sick, and visited those in prison? Pray and ask the Lord to reveal to you those in your everyday life who fit into these categories. Ask him how you might respond to them.
FIFTH DAY READ PSALM 23:1-3, 5-6
(“Beside restful waters he leads me;”)
Read and meditate on Psalm 23:1-3, 5-6.
What is the Lord saying to you personally through the Psalm?
How can you apply this to your life?
SIXTH DAY READ ALL OF THE COMMENTARY
EZEKIEL 34:11-12, 15-17
Today’s reading is a powerful prophecy given by God to Ezekiel over 500 years before Christ came on earth. This prophecy was fulfilled to the letter in Christ. Jesus founded the new sheepfold, the new chosen people, and the kingdom on earth. We see in this passage that God himself would be their shepherd. He would replace the earthly shepherds that had failed in their duty. He described the relationship between his people and himself under the image of sheep and shepherd.
This reading is a tremendous comfort. We can be assured that God will sovereignly take over as pastor of the scattered flock. When our leaders fail us, we must not despair, but turn to God for help. We must never forget that he is still in control and can turn even this tragic situation over to produce good for the kingdom. (Rom. 8:28)
Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd and that he knows his sheep and they know him. He constantly seeks out the lost and brings back the strayed and disillusioned. We need only to listen to his call in the darkness of our soul. The sheep know the shepherd’s voice very well. We need to know our shepherd’s voice also. We can do this by spending quiet time alone with him each day and listening to him speak to us. We need to be still and realize that he is our God, our shepherd, our savior, our refuge, our rock, and our strength (Psalm 46:10 and Psalm 91).
A good shepherd always takes care of his flock, and he feeds them before he eats. He notices each one and immediately binds up any wounds. He heals the sick by giving them his love, skills and attention. We need to take all this into our heart. Today, in many places, there are shepherds who have abandoned their flock, while others are abusing and even killing their flock. We can pray for our brothers and sisters who are going through this time of terror. We know that one day the Good Shepherd, Our Lord Jesus, will return and he will heal the wounded, raise the dead, and will destroy the arrogant, fat, sleek, false shepherds (Ezekiel 34:16).
1 CORINTHIANS 15:20-26, 28
Today’s passage from 1 Corinthians tells us that death came into the world as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. Today many people say, “How can we be declared guilty of something Adam did so many centuries ago?” So many people today think it is not right for God to judge us because of Adam’s sin, yet each of us confirms our solidarity with Adam by our own sins. We seem to be made of the same stuff, prone to rebel, and we are judged for the sins we commit.
Because we are all sinners, what we need today is not fairness; no, what we need is mercy. Paul tells us that Christ, through his dying and rising, paid the ransom for what Adam did. We who believe have become Christ’s brothers and sisters and share in his resurrection. Because Christ did rise from the dead, you and all who believe in him can face tomorrow without fear. We all can face eternity because Christ will conquer the ultimate enemy and that is death. Christ’s role is to defeat all evil on earth. He defeated sin for us with his death on the cross. In the final days he will defeat Satan and all evil. World events may seem totally out of control, and justice may be very hard to find, but God is in control. God has allowed evil to remain for a time until he sends Jesus back to earth again. Jesus will present to the Father a new and perfect world. Death need have no claim on us.
Jesus tells us in 1 John 4:4 that the Spirit in us is greater than he that is in the world. We have the church, sacred Scripture, and the sacraments. The source of truth is Jesus Christ, and he is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
Today’s Gospel strikes at the very core of what we say we believe. To say that we believe is proved by how we act. To talk with the Lord does not mean to walk with the Lord. When we walk with the Lord we walk in the dark, dangerous, lonely corners of oppressed and beaten people’s hearts.
One day God will separate his obedient followers from the pretenders and unbelievers. We are called to treat all persons whom we encounter as if they are Jesus, and this is no easy task. What we do for others demonstrates what we really think about Jesus’ words to us – feed the hungry, give the homeless shelter, visit the sick and imprisoned. You will be observed by others, and will your actions separate you from the pretenders and unbelievers? Jesus used sheep and goats to show the division between believers and unbelievers. Sheep and goats often grazed together but were separated when it came shearing time.
Today’s Gospel describes acts of mercy that we all can do every day. They are simple acts freely given and freely received. We have no excuse to neglect those in deep need, and we cannot hand over this responsibility to some agency. Jesus demands personal involvement in caring for the needs of others. Many people might say that they do not have the opportunity to visit a prison or hospital, work in a soup kitchen, or even a shelter for the homeless. Some even say that they do not have the special talents needed for this, but Jesus really lays it on the line when he says, “What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me.”
We get the power to do this through the Holy Spirit who anoints us to feed the hungry, set the captives free, and give sight to the blind (Luke 4:18). This could be right in your own family and the hunger might be for Christ; the prison might be their humanistic minds. The blindness may be their inability to see the truth which comes from God’s Holy Word (John 8:32). We can and we must, through the Holy Spirit, set our children free.
This week’s first reading reveals the Good Shepherd is Christ. The second reading assures us that even in turmoil God is still in control. The Gospel shows us that all of us can do God’s holy works of mercy.
This week pick out a particular work of mercy and give of yourself to another person. Maybe write to a prisoner or a person in a hospital. Visit a shut-in or someone who lives alone. Bring a meal to an elderly person or a sick friend. Spend a few hours at a soup kitchen. Volunteer some time in a thrift shop that uses its donations and sales to help others in need. If you look real closely, you might just see Jesus smiling at you and saying, “Thank you, my faithful servant.”