Who am I? My love-of-self tells me I am a knight in shining armor and should be very comfortable with my efforts thus far! But in reality, I am an ole goat! Let me take a moment to explain how I came to this rationality!
When I was a young man, I had land that was overgrown and out of control and so I purchased a young nanny goat that we named Geraldine. Geraldine became a pet and would follow me around like a dog and even go for a ride in my Ford Escort. As she grew older she became less of a pet and more like a goat. The overgrown lot was more than she could handle so I traveled to the stock sale and bought a Billy goat that we named Geronimo. As they grew I quickly learned not to turn my back on them, especially Geronimo, as I seemed to be invading his space. The Billy wreaked havoc on my overgrown brush and unfortunately also outside my fence line at the neighbors Christmas tree farm. Geronimo and I became a bit unpopular with the neighbors, although his efforts while he was inside the fence did clear the lot. The goats loved all the wild vines and Shumake trees, and of course the neighbors Christmas trees!
Now sheep on the other hand tend to stick together and follow their leader. There is strength in numbers where as my goats never backed down from anything and were very independent. Many times Geronimo would be standing on top of a stump like he was the king! I tried to negotiate with him and explain his place in life and in the pecking order of things, but he was only listening to his own drummer. He became more and more hard-headed and eventually Geronimo and I took a ride back to the stock sale due to his neglect of respect for my fence, his love of evergreen needles and his dominance over everything and everyone.
Well, sadly this ole goat tends to be a bit like that hard-headed Billy goat that used to deny my fence and savor Christmas trees. We have heard in the Gospel reading about the sheep being on Christ’s right and the goats on His left. “Then shall the King say to those on His right, ‘Come, ye who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the foundation of the world. [Mt. 25:34]
As a goat, I tend to neglect the needs of others because I am too busy with my own stuff. Archimandrite Thaddeus of Strabulovich said:"There are no atheists! They do not exist. Even the enemy believes and trembles; only he does not do good!”(Archimandrite Thaddeus Strabulovich of Vitovnica)
Righteous Martyr Maria, an Orthodox nun who helped many needy folks in Paris during WWII, including saving many Jews, was herself arrested and imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp because of her acts of love. Before she died, she stated: “At the last judgment I shall not be asked if I was successful in my ascetic exercises or how many prostrations I made in the course of my prayers. I shall be asked one thing: did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners; that is all I shall be asked.”
As the church moves into the nurture of lent, let us be more about seeing and helping with each other’s needs, performing acts of kindness, practicing patience and forgiveness and all be about following the examples Christ gave us as he instructed Philip to “Follow Me” (John 1:43), and in that we will become more like a right-sided sheep and less like an independent ole hard-headed Christmas tree eating goat!