On the outskirts of town, there was a big old pecan tree by the cemetery fence. One day two boys filled up a bucketful of nuts and sat down by the tree, out of sight, and began dividing the nuts. “One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me,” said one boy.
Several were dropped and rolled down toward the fence.
Another boy came riding along the road on his bicycle. As he passed, he thought he heard voices from inside the cemetery. He slowed down to investigate. Sure enough, he heard, “One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me.” He just knew what it was. “Oh my,” he shuddered, “it's Satan and St. Peter dividing the souls at the cemetery. He jumped back on his bike and rode off. Just around the bend he met an old man with a cane, hobbling along.
”Come here quick,” said the boy, “you won't believe what I heard. Satan and St. Peter are down at the cemetery dividing up the souls.”
The man said, “Beat it, kid, can't you see it's hard for me to walk.”
When the boy insisted, though, the man hobbled to the cemetery.
Standing by the fence they heard, “One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me...”
The old man whispered, “Boy, you've been telling' the truth. Let's see if we can see the devil himself.”
Shaking with fear, they peered through the fence, yet were still unable to see anything. The old man and the boy gripped the wrought iron bars of the fence tighter and tighter as they tried to get a glimpse of Satan. At last they heard, “One for you, one for me. And one last one's for you. That's all. Now let's go get those nuts by the fence, and we'll be done.”
Oscar Ramiro Ortega Hernandez was arrested and charged with attempting to assassinate the president or his staff. He is accused of firing nine rounds at the White House. If convicted, Ortega faces up to life in prison. Also last week, a parishioner came to the chapel for his holy hour and the morning Mass. He parked his car in a handicap parking space. After the Mass, to his surprise, he saw a ticket attached to the windshield of his car. Like it or not, judgment is a fact of life. If we break the law, then society will judge us. We have to pay a fine, or appear in court before a judge and a jury. If we are guilt, we will pay a fine or go to jail. We are a society governed by laws.
Incarceration in the United States is one of the main forms of punishment and/or rehabilitation for the commission of felony and other offenses. The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 2,292,133 adults were incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons, and county jails at year-end 2009. In addition, 4,933,667 adults at year-end 2009 were on probation or on parole. In total, 7,225,800 adults were under correctional supervision 2009.i This is for natural worldly life. It is very much the same for our spiritual and eternal life.
For the last few weekends, the liturgy has focused on the judgment that God is going to give to each one of us. We have heard the story of the ten virgins carrying their lamps to greet the bridegroom, then the story of the talents. All of these parables are telling us that those who obey the laws, follow the commandments, and live a productive life will enter the Kingdom of God.
Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Jesus again speaks about the final judgment. We have the story of the separation of the sheep and the goats. There shall be a clear division on the final day. The final day is the day when the Son of Man comes as the Supreme Shepherd. On that day, Jesus will divide the sheep from the goats. Those are on the right will be allowed entrance into the kingdom, while those on the left will be denied it. This is a warning of the ongoing attitudes that we have toward others. It is also an image of exactly what Jesus considers “holiness” to be. It is simple and clearly explained. There are really not many questions about the meaning of Jesus’ words here. It is not difficult to understand. All of us, however, wonder whether we are the goats or the sheep, on the right or on the left of the King. We always wonder if we have done enough to be considered among the “sheep.” Clearly the sheep are compassionate people who treat others with generosity, love, kindness, and care. Eternal life belongs to people who see the needs of others and care enough to take action to help them in whatever way they can. And the great surprise is that those who thought they were religious turn out to be not as good as they thought, and those who thought they failed were told they did a better job than they supposed.
During the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in the days of Mussolini, Christian believers suffered considerable persecution. In his book, Fire on the Mountains, Raymond Davis tells of the love demonstrated by believers for each other during this period of affliction, which in turn made a major impression on unbelievers. For example, no provision was made to feed the prisoners in jail by the invading army. This was the responsibility of relatives and friends. Christians in the prisons had no problem, though. They were well cared for by friends and family. In fact, so much food was brought them by fellow believers and church groups that enough remained to feed the unbelieving prisoners also. This observable love, vibrant though nonverbal, brought many to seek the Lord. Such love was previously unheard of. As a result, the word spread far and wide. Non-believers sought out believers to learn more about the Christian faith. When prisoners who had come to know Christ while in jail were released, they went back home and attended the nearest church.