God himself will shepherd the people of Israel.
The Lord is our shepherd.
Because Christ has been raised from the dead, all those who have died will also be raised.
Jesus teaches that when the Son of Man comes in glory, he will judge the nations, separating the sheep from the goats.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today’s Gospel passage is the conclusion of Jesus’ discourse with his disciples. It is about the end of time, the coming of the Son of Man, and the final judgment. We hear this description of the final judgment at the conclusion of our liturgical year, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King. In the context of Matthew’s Gospel, this passage might also be read as a conclusion of Matthew’s report on Jesus’ life and ministry; the remaining chapters report the events of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes to his disciples the scene of the judgment of the Son of Man. All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate them as a shepherd separates sheep and goats upon their return from the pasture. The judgments made by the Son of Man will be based upon the acts of mercy shown to the least ones—the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned. Indeed, Jesus, who suffered on the Cross, identifies himself with the least ones.
Recall that last week’s parable of the talents taught us that the gifts that we have been given are intended to be used for the service of others, especially the least among us. Our judgment before God will be based not only on how we have used these gifts and talents, but also on how we have extended ourselves in service to these least ones. Indeed, Jesus tells us that whenever we have served these least ones, we have served Christ himself.
When we read today’s Gospel in the context of the chapters that follow in Matthew’s Gospel, we learn the extent to which Jesus identifies with the least ones. In accepting death on the cross, Jesus shows himself to be one of the hungry, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned. To accept Jesus is to accept him who suffered and died on the Cross as one of the least ones.