Reading I: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
GOSPEL: Matthew 25:31-46
Babe, the Shepherd-King?
Have you ever seen the movie Babe? It’s an oldie but a goodie – mid-90s – but if you spend much time around small children, you might be familiar with it. Possibly more familiar with it than you’d really like to be. But were you paying attention? I mean really paying attention? Believe it or not, the perspective presented to us in Babe offers us a fresh spin on Jesus Christ, our shepherd-king.
Suspend Your Disbelief
Babe is the story of a pig who acts as the shepherd for Farmer Hoggett. He encounters quite a lot of opposition from the other animals on the farm: the sheepdogs, the cows, the horses – you name it, they challenged him.
Yet in spite of all the nay-sayers (pun intended), Babe went on to shepherd Farmer Hoggett’s sheep in the Sheepdog Competition anyway.
In the competition, Babe has to lead the sheep around the course. His secret to success was in being polite to the sheep. He knew their code, and they recognized Babe as their shepherd. Babe, a pig – and certainly the least likely to be their shepherd – led the sheep on to victory.
Okay, so maybe you’re thinking, “what does this have to do with the gospel?” – and rightly so. Well, first of all, this weekend is the celebration of the feast of Christ the King, and two of the three readings mention shepherds and sheep. (Now we’re getting somewhere.)
Our gospel is the familiar “sheep on the right, goats on the left” parable. In it, Christ affirms the people who recognized him in the poor, the thirsty, the naked, the ill and the imprisoned. He then chastises those who did not see him in those very unlikely places.
Just as the sheep recognized their shepherd in the seemingly unlikely form of Babe the pig, so did the righteous in this gospel recognize Christ in the seemingly unlikely form of the most vulnerable and needy in society. Even today, we still face this challenge.
It is very easy for us to pass by those in need without a second thought. When we do this, we are rejecting our own shepherd. This makes us the goats of the parable – or the sheep that mocked Babe (stream the movie if you don’t get the reference).
This gospel not only makes a case for Christ as our Shepherd-King, but it also makes a strong point for social justice, as many of the other gospel readings have done for the last several weeks. It challenges us to accept and care for those in need. When we fail to do that, we reject not only the poor and vulnerable; we reject Christ, and ultimately, God who sent Christ to us in the first place. And in the words of one of my favorite movies of all time, “Don’t be that guy.”
Jesus Christ was a priest, a prophet and a shepherd-king. In our baptism, we have been given the opportunity to share in those responsibilities too. We, as Catholics, are people of action. It is up to us to take care of Jesus’ sheep, because he is present in all of them, even when we don’t expect him to be there.
Now go watch Babe. I guarantee it will never be the same for you again!
In what unexpected ways or places do you see Christ in your life?
How can you take action to care for Jesus’ sheep?
How do you live up to your baptismal call as priest, prophet and king?
Original article Jacki Popadich, 2002 – 2020.