If your life had a motto, what would it be? If you could summarize your entire attitude about life in one simple phrase, what would you say? There is a common one floating around our world today, YOLO. It stands for “You Only Live Once.” As if to say, do as much as you can, experience as much as you can because…you only live once. YOLO! Perhaps one would say, “I’m going to go skydiving because YOLO!” And if you think about it, it is true, right? … I mean, we do only live once. But the attitude about life behind YOLO is based solely on the individual person. It’s fundamentally selfish. I’m going to experience all that I can for me because I only live once. Now, in contrast, what if we were to see Mother Teresa’s motto on life? I think her motto would be “I Thirst.” As in “I thirst for the salvation of souls” and in a particular way to the poor she ministered to. Her life and attitude towards life reflected her fundamental selfless attitude. Rather than focus on herself in life, she focused on God and others, which led her to sanctity, to holiness and eternal life. Or let’s look at another one of the worldy kings’ mottos, that of Burger King. For the past 40 years, Burger King’s slogan has been, “Have it your way”* signifying that you can order your hamburger any way YOU want it. Like YOLO, it seems a bit selfish. Essentially, I should approach Burger King selfishly and get a burger how I want it, not necessarily how they make it. It’s about me, not others. So today on the feast of Christ the King of the Universe, I have a proposal for you. If you do not have a motto for your life or are looking for a new one, I propose that you take Burger King’s motto and flip it (no pun intended). Instead of “Have it your way,” make your motto, “Have it His way.” As in live your life God’s way. Make your attitude that of living your life according to God’s will as king of the universe.**
For the past number of weeks the readings at Mass have focused on parables concerning the end of time and how we are to prepare for it so as to receive eternal life. The parable of the ten virgins encouraged us to be prepared for the end times like the five wise virgins who were prepared for the coming of the bridegroom. The parable last week with the servants increasing the talents that their master gave them shows us how to prepare for the end times, by living a life in Christ, by increasing the talents God gives us. Today Jesus speaks directly about the moment of Judgement when he says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” This is the moment of judgement we will all undergo at the end of time. Jesus speaks about this moment by using the image of sheep and goats. Jesus himself is the shepherd who will separate the sheep from the goats and places the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Before we get too involved with the judgement at the end times, though, we must remember something about Jesus as Judge. He is not only judge, but also shepherd with infinite love, as Ezekiel and the Psalm remind us. He is the shepherd that seeks out the lost, brings back those who stray, binds the injured, heals the sick, and refreshes our souls. He is also, however, the shepherd that will destroy the sleek and the strong as he shepherds us rightly. So it is important to remember that Jesus is not a pushover shepherd, meaning we can’t do whatever we want and Jesus will be okay with it. Jesus is a just shepherd who we must follow every day in order to be counted among the sheep who heed his voice. This means we must strive each and every day to be like Him in order to be led by Him because each and every one of us (including me!) will end up in one of those two groups, the sheep or the goats, at the end of time. The sheep are the ones who are told by Christ, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” This is the group we all want to be in because they are headed for eternal life! The goats, on the other hand, are told, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” This group we know are headed to eternal punishment, to hell.
And both the sheep and the goats, had a life motto! And I bet you can you guess what they were. The goats had the life motto of YOLO or “Have it your way.” They are the ones who lived their lives for themselves. And Jesus directly points this truth out to them. Jesus tells them that whenever they saw someone who was hungry, thirsty, alone, naked, ill, or in prison, they ignored them. Their life was so much about themselves that they did not to reach out to those in need. They neglected to see Jesus in those around them. They chose to live their life for themselves, they had it their way, rather than God’s way. And because of a life lived for themselves, Jesus tells them they are going into the eternal fire of hell.
A wise deacon once told me that the theme song in Hell would be “My Way” popularized by Frank Sinatra. This song itself reflects on a lived lived for oneself..not for others and definitely not for God. Here are some of the lyrics:
“And now, the end is here
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and ev’ry highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!”
The song makes it clear that this man approaching death proudly reflects that he lived his life his own way and not based on anyone around him. But this kind of attitude is exactly what Jesus is referring to when he speaks of the goats. The goats, too, lived their lives for themselves only and that only led them to eternal damnation. This is the attitude we must avoid to receive eternal life.
The sheep, on the other hand, have the opposite life motto, they “had it His way.” They lived their life God’s way. Whenever they saw someone hungry, thirsty, naked, etc. they reached out with charity to help them. They lived their life for God through others. I think this is beautifully modeled in Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in her thirst for the salvation of souls. She not only saw Jesus in the poor, but brought Jesus to them by becoming poor herself and loving the poor as Christ. There is a quote from Mother Teresa on the poor that I’d also like to share with you. She says, “The shut-in, the unwanted, the unloved, the alcoholics, the dying destitutes, the abandoned and the lonely, the outcasts and untouchables, the leprosy sufferers – all those who are a burden to human society, who have lost all hope and faith in life, who have fogotten how to smile, who have lost the sensibility of the warm hand-touch of love and friendship – they look to us for comfort. If we turn our back on them, we turn it on Christ, and at the hour of our death we shall be judged if we have recognized Christ in them, and on what we have done for and to them.” Mother Teresa recognized Christ in everyone and recognized her own salvation was tied to how she loved with Christ here on earth. She lived her life God’s way.
So now, today, we must ask ourselves, how do we be a part of sheep at the end of time and receive eternal life? Well, it’s simple, we make their life motto our life motto. We allow Christ, as the King of the Universe, to be King of the universe of our hearts. We live today and each day “having it His way.” We live modeling Mother Teresa’s own loving attitude by reaching out to those around us who are poor. They may not be the same poor that Mother Teresa ministered to, but how many of us know someone who is lonely and could use a phone call from a friend, or a cup of coffee? Or even visiting the elderly in the nursing homes this Advent and Christmas season would be a great way to get out of oneself and see Christ in others. I know the young men and women in the confirmation program at my parish back home love going to the nursing home to sing carols for the elderly there. They see Christ in the elderly they sing to. The opportunities to recognize and love Christ in others are endless in each of our daily lives. And so as we approach the Eucharist today, I invite you to ask Jesus for the grace to see Him in everyone you encounter. And in a particular way, let us all pray for the grace to live our lives not by Burger King’s motto, “Have it your way”, but by the motto, “Have it His way.”
*on a side note, Burger King changed it’s slogan this year to “Be your way” instead of “Have it your way.”
**In a beautiful way this motto is found in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s words, “Be it done to me according to your Word.” (Luke 1:38)
Christ is the King of the Universe….is He the king of yours?