Our Ultimate Goal — The Kingdom of Heaven
The Scriptures teach us that the one great purpose of Jesus’ coming to earth was to establish the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven for his people forever. This Kingdom is not a physical, earthly or geographical location but a spiritual realm, attained by walking in the Spirit of God and producing fruits of the Spirit, such as love, joy, peace, mercy, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, compassion, and holiness (Galatians 5:22-23).
When listeners, including His disciples, could not understand His message of the Kingdom, Jesus explained through parables what one must do to enter the Kingdom. The parables Jesus told at the beginning of His ministry were meant to exhort the listeners to choose the Kingdom of God or risk the consequences of rejecting it. However, the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the Talents, and this Sunday’s Parable of the Sheep and the Goats were relayed by Jesus toward the end of His public ministry. These parables describe the Kingdom of God at the end of the age – which include the Second Coming or the Return of Christ, the final judgement, plus eternal reward or punishment.
Jesus used the imagery of sheep and goats to foretell a future time of judgement. He called the sheep the “blessed” and invited them to inherit the kingdom that had been prepared for them from the beginning of time, because they had treated Christ’s needy brothers and sisters – the hungry, the thirsty, the impoverished, the sick, the naked, and the imprisoned – with care and compassion. By contrast, the King declared the goats “accursed” and assigned them to the eternal fire. They would have to suffer exclusion from the Kingdom of Heaven because they had closed their eyes to the needs of the least of the brothers and sisters of Christ. They had opportunities to minister to the Lord through caring for the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick and the prisoners, but they failed to do so.
What is the message for us?
The entirety of Jesus’ teaching and the whole truth of the Scriptures indicate that worship and prayer are crucial in order to obtain God’s grace so we can accomplish what He is calling us to do: that is, to keep on loving, forgiving, giving, healing others, seeking, listening and hoping in the Lord with a joyful heart. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is not about God’s judgement upon us. It is rather about us – about you and me – and about the choices we make in our lives. We can make choices that separate us from God and from others or we can make choices that bring us closer to God and others. The choice of heaven or hell is something we have to make for ourselves. No one can make the choice for us. We will be judged on love – our love for God and our love for others, particularly those in need. The Kingdom of Heaven is the eternal reward for those who believe in Jesus and are faithful to him until the end.
May each one of us attain our ultimate goal – eternal happiness with God in the Kingdom of Heaven!
Sr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, IHM