Let me say something about both readings, starting with the familiar Gospel parable in which God at the end of the world will be like a shepherd who separates the sheep from the goats. We will be among the sheep welcomed into his kingdom if we have consistently cared for the needy.
It is helpful for us to see this parable as one of three in Chapter Twenty-five of Matthew’s Gospel. The first of the three says God will see our lives as having been successful if at the end we have oil in our lamps, or God’s grace in our hearts. The second criterion by which we will be judged is on the use we have made of our talents. Even though we may have years before Judgment Day it is helpful for us now to check on how we stand. Are we in the state of grace, are we using our abilities for good, and are we habitually concerned with helping those in need.
What makes the first reading distinct is its repetition of the phrase “I am the Lord.” We all live in a covenant relationship with God. A covenant is a fixed relationship by which the parties become alike. There are two kinds of covenants, and they have the legal names of Parity Covenants, and Suzerainty Covenants. A Parity Covenant is a relationship such as marriage in which two people can come together only if both sides of the marriage gives up traits that keep the husband and wife from uniting. A Suzerainty Covenant is one where the superior partner cannot change to accommodate himself to the lower party. That is the way it is with God. He cannot stoop to become like us inferior creatures, so we must keep changing to become like God. We must be holy because he is holy. He is the Lord.