In preparation for Advent, the Gospel is about the Last Judgment. The worshipping point is that the spiritual life requires self-discipline. In 1 Corinthians, Saint Paul joins with the Hellenistic Greeks to regard a fat belly as a sign of lack of self-control.
The readings begin with Ezekiel, making a similar point about the essence of the spiritual life being self-control. At the basic level, Ezekiel is counseling the Babylonian Exiles that the Lord will find another shepherd king, like King David. At a more fundamental level, Ezekiel is helping establish the interior life as the site of the Kingdom of God, the third mystery of the rosary Mysteries of Light. At a judgmental level, Ezekiel 34:16 mentions destroying some sheep as 34:17 proclaims, I will judge between one sheep and another. Matthew 25:32b, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, elaborates Ezekiel 34. 1 Corinthians and 25 uses the word destroy, a work appearing twenty-two times in the undisputed Pauline letters, but elsewhere in the New Testament only five times. Paul is unabashedly about the raw power of the Christian life. Paul wants to destroy death, itself.
Psalm 23 is famous, about the Good Shepherd guiding
the Faithful through difficulties. Shepherding
was a lowly occupation, so portraying God as a shepherd is making its own point
about the external trappings of life. Saint
Paul explains in 1 Corinthians that the Good Shepherd, Jesus, is conquering
death for the Faithful. For a human,
nothing is lowlier than death. As Susan
One of the problems with the 23rd Psalm is poetry. Psalm 23 is poetry translated as prose. Over two hundred years ago, this anomaly began to bother translators as they began to appreciate the poetic nature of so much of the original language. The problem continues, as the Faithful try to grasp what is there.
Funerals makes the Twenty-third Psalm available in four places, Pastoral Care of the Sick in three. Sunday liturgies use the Twenty-third Psalm four times in Cycle A and once in Cycle B. Matthew 25:31-46 is available for Funerals. As a type of final judgment, Psalm 23:6b concludes, I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.
Trying to follow chronological time in 1 Corinthians
is difficult for the Western mind. Biblical
Koine Byzantine Greek verbs do not show relative time, as English verbs do. In 1 Corinthians,
When 1 Corinthians announces The last enemy to be destroyed is death, the Greek tense is present indicative. The Faithful in Western Civilization would tend to understand conquering death as something for future time, but that sense is not in the original Greek. Paul is difficult to understand. 1 Corinthians 15 is the earliest account of Easter. The Gospels were written later.
1 Corinthians 15:20, 23 presents Jesus twice as firstfruits, a harvest.
The Church itself as well as the different Evangelists combines with the First Testament and noncanonical parallels to reveal why the Evangelists present the parables as they do. In this instance, Matthew is defining the Christian community, as one of several other Jewish communities. Matthew does this by setting out antitheses, for example Matthew 25:34, then the king will say to those on this right and Matthew 25:41, then he will say to those on his left. The various antitheses set out the boundaries of the Christian community to this day.
The Last Judgment, in the final analysis, is about the Christian community, about who will be saved and who not. The Last Judgment of Matthew is fearful, because eternal life is but one option to eternal punishment, Matthew 15:46. That Last Judgment contradicts the Beatitudes. The difference is that at the Second Coming, Jesus is judging as God, something other humans will also get to do, but not in this life. In this life, all must past through the door of death to conquer death. Paul was not expecting all to have to die before Jesus came again, but, because so much time has passed, the Faithful today do expect to die.
It seems to me that God’s messengers, the angels are
extra-terrestrial beings, also destined to assemble before
In conclusion, salvation consists of defeating death itself, first with Ezekiel in the interior life, then with the guidance of the Good Shepherd in the Twenty-third Psalm. In 1 Corinthians, Paul spells out the theology of time, beginning with Adam, focusing on Christ, and ending when Jesus comes again at the Last Judgment. The Gospel of Matthew uses the beatitudes as the criteria for imposing eternal punishment on sinners and eternal life on the Faithful.
For more on sources see the Appendix file. Personal Notes are on the web site at www.western-civilization.com/CBQ/Personal%20Notes
 Richard J. Clifford, S.J., “The Unity of the Book of Isaiah and Its Cosmogonic Language," the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 1 (January 1993) 15.
 Dale Launderville, O.S.B., “Ezekiel’s Throne-Chariot Vision: Spiritualizing the Model of Divine Royal Rule," the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 66, No. 3 (July 2004) 364-361-362, 368.
 John Paul Heil, “Ezekiel 34 and the Narrative Strategy of the Shepherd and Sheep Metaphor in Matthew," the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 4 (October 1993) 698, 705.
 Jeremy Corley, “The Pauline Authorship of 1 Corinthians 13," the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 66, No. 2 (April 2004) 260; Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, O.P., “Corinthian Slogans in 1 Cor 6:12-20," the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 3 (July 1978) 394.
Alister McGrath, In the Beginning: The
 N.a., International Commission on English in the Liturgy: A Joint Commission of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, The Roman Ritual: Revised by Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and published by Authority of Pope Paul IV: Order of Christian Funerals: Including Appendix 2: Cremation: Approved for use in the Dioceses of the United States of America by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and Confirmed by the Apostolic See (New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1998) 143, 223, 253, 267.
 The Roman Ritual: Revised by Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and Published by Authority of Pope Paul VI: Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum: Approved for use in the dioceses of the United States of America by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and Confirmed by the Apostolic See: Prepared by International Commission on English in the Liturgy: a Joint Commission of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co. 1983) 171, 188, 323.
 National Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Roman Missal Restored by Decree of the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican and Promulgated by Authority of Pope Paul VI: Lectionary for Mass: For Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America: Second Typical Edition: Volume I: Sundays, Solemnities, Feasts of the Lord and Saints (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1998).194, 388, 716, 888, 975 (today).
 N.a., International Commission on English in the Liturgy: A Joint Commission of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, The Roman Ritual: Revised by Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and published by Authority of Pope Paul IV: Order of Christian Funerals: Including Appendix 2: Cremation: Approved for use in the Dioceses of the United States of America by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and Confirmed by the Apostolic See (New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1998) 233.
Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women:
Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels (
 Max Zerwick, S.J. and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament unabridged, 5th, revised edition (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico 1996) 529.
Murray Baker, “Paul and the Salvation of Israel: Paul’s Ministry, the Motif of
 Barbara E. Reid, O.P., “Violent Endings in Matthew’s Parables and Christian Nonviolence," the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 66, No. 2 (April 2004) 237, 248, 252.