Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 15-17 1 Corinthians 15: 20-26, 28 Matthew 25: 31-46
“I hope you didn’t take it personally, Father,” an embarrassed woman said to her pastor after the Holy Mass, “when my husband walked out during your sermon on Christ the King.” “I did find it rather disconcerting,” the pastor replied. “It’s not a reflection on you, Father,” she insisted. “Ralph has been walking in his sleep ever since he was a child.”
Signs seen at churches: “How will you spend eternity? Smoking or Non-smoking?” “Dusty Bibles lead to Dirty Lives.” “Come work for Christ the King. The work is hard, the hours are long and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are very grand and out of this world.
Dear Friends! The Church celebrates the feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday (34th Sunday) of her liturgical year. It was Pope Pius XI who introduced this feast in the liturgy in 1925. In most of the messianic prophecies given in the Old Testament books of Samuel, Micah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, Christ the Messiah is represented as a king.
The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the long-awaited king of the Jews. In the Annunciation, recorded in Lk.1: 32-33, we read: “The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever and his kingdom will never end.”
During the royal reception given to Jesus on Palm Sunday, the Jews shouted: (Lk.19: 38) “God bless the king, who comes in the name of the Lord.” Luke’s gospel tells us (19: 19), that the board hung over Jesus’ head on the cross read: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”. Before his ascension into heaven, Jesus declared: (Mt. 28:18) “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.” Today’s gospel on the Last Judgment presents Christ the King coming in his heavenly glory to judge us.
Jesus has begun his reign as king, but he will come on Judgment Day to bring it to completion. On that day he will sit on his throne and sort out from all nations those men and women, and boys and girls, who really belong to his kingdom. Notice that both the righteous and the accursed address Jesus as “Lord.” It is not what we call him that matters but whether or not we have come to the help of the needy and the disadvantaged in our midst.
The specific actions mentioned are (i) feeding the hungry, (ii) giving drink to the thirsty, (iii) clothing the naked, (iv) sheltering the homeless, (v) visiting those in prison, and (vi) taking care of the sick. Add (vii) burying the dead, and you have the traditional Seven Corporal Works of Mercy.
The Salvation Army does not believe in baptism, in the Eucharist nor in the priesthood. Yet you never hear people criticize them. Why? Because what they do speaks so loudly that no one cares what they believe. They provide soup kitchens for the starving. They clothe the naked on our streets. They rehabilitate those addicted to drug and alcohol. They are there wherever disaster strikes. As far as people are concerned these are the things that count. The Parable of the Last Judgment in today’s gospel shows that these are the things that count before God as well.
On Judgment Day shall we be with the favored on His right or with the un-favored on His left? The answer to that will depend on how we live our lives. Ministering to the basic needs of one’s fellow-man is the only criterion of judgment mentioned in today’s Gospel. Paraphrased, it runs: man is to be judged entirely on his behavior towards his fellowmen. Jesus identifies himself with man. He counts doing for others as done for Him.
The Gospel challenges us to see the broken body of Christ in the brokenness and the woundedness of those we see around us. Christ still suffers in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. Let us keep in mind to pay attention to them is to pay attention to the broken body of Christ in and around us.