The Enlightenment of a Goat

A reflection on Matthew 25:31-46

William Loader

I dreamt a dream. I dreamt a parable.
I was a goat, a billy goat. The goats around me who knew my name thought that was amusing.

Goats are special. Sometimes people confuse us with sheep. But sheep are very stupid. Goats are intelligent. Sheep produce wool, but goat hair is much stronger. We also produce milk. Who has ever heard of milking sheep! We can run faster than sheep and we can climb higher

One day I was climbing up a high mountain with my family, higher than I had ever climbed before, so high that I could look out and see the future.

There on a cloud I saw lots of human beings.
Some were wearing red clothes; some were wearing blue.
In front of them was another human being, shining white.

He said to the red people who were on his left:
‘Come and live with me in my father’s city.
For I was an outcaste and you welcomed me into your home;
I was in Orissa and you sent me help;
I was trying to bring change through politics and you supported me;
I was a child labourer and you found me another way for me to live;
I was a woman burnt by her husband and you gave me refuge.’
They all said,
‘When did we see you as an outcaste, or in Orissa, or a politician, or a child labourer or a burnt woman and come to your aid?’
He said, ‘You did it to them; it was like you did it to me.’

Then he turned to the people in blue who also called him, ‘Lord’, but the situation was much less happy. They had kept themselves pure and had not helped the outcaste, the people in Orissa, the politician, the child labourer, the burnt woman at all – or anyone else for that matter. There was no room for them in the city.

Just then it started to rain and the vision went away. We were left to ponder what we had seen.

Nanny, who was standing beside me, said,
‘I know. If I am a human being in my next life, I shall pretend I see the shining one in everyone I see. I shall help all those needy people like I’m helping him. That way he will reward me with a place in his father’s city.’

I was thinking about that when from the other side her sister – they always used to argue – said,
‘No, no, no! Don’t you see it was all a surprise. They didn’t care for people because they saw the shining one in them. They cared for people because they were people. They did it naturally. It was their way. Only later were they surprised to learn that they had also cared for him.’

That made me think still further. I spent so much time thinking that when the others skipped off down the mountain – as only goats can do – I made my way slowly.

As I passed one of the ridges covered with bushes, I heard a cry. As I got closer, I saw a sheep, a ram caught in the thicket. ‘Stupid sheep!’ I thought.
I was about to walk on past when something made me stop. I had strong horns, I thought. I could free that poor sheep. I climbed to the ridge and began to push and pull and finally the ram was free.
Off he trotted into the setting sun. Then something strange occurred. As I watched the ram make its way across the valley, it seemed to change into a small child. It then began to grow up and by the time it reached the stream at the bottom of the valley was fully grown. It stumbled across the stream. At one point it was fully submerged. Then it climbed up into the sun, just a silhouette, until finally all I could see was the figure of a fully grown man standing out against the red sky, shaped like a cross on the horizon.

I turned to move on, to return to the pastures below. As I reached a resting place, I looked out. There were goats; there were sheep. I lay down with head on a great stone. My body was filled with light and I knew that I knew. I knew that I knew.

I opened my eyes. Someone had come into my room and turned on the light. It was time to get up and eat It was time to begin a new day.

Note: I presented this to the worshipping community at Bishop’s College, Calcutta, India, in November, 1999, during 4 week stay. The beginning of November saw a supercyclone devastate the neighbouring state of Orissa to the south.

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