The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 23, 2014
Reading 1 Ez 34:11-12, 15-17
Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6
R/ The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Reading 2 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28
Gospel Mt 25:31-46
Images of Christ
This is the last weekend in the Church calendar year and next weekend we start the season of Advent. Before we start Advent, it’s appropriate that we end with a celebration which includes a parish breakfast downstairs after the 9:30 Mass.
This weekend we celebrate the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ is the King of the Universe. The readings this weekend and others throughout the Bible can help us understand why God the Father made His Son Jesus the King. In our culture that may not be easy to understand. At this time, kings and queens have become more symbolic and only exist in other countries. The idea of Jesus as a good King is something I can imagine but it’s more difficult for me to think about developing a relationship with a King in my daily life.
We are fortunate that Jesus plays many parts in our life and His role as Shepherd is the image that helps me each day. As a Shepherd I can imagine Him:
- Guiding me on the right path
- Healing me when I’m sick
- Refreshing my soul AND
- Rescuing me when I wander off
The image of a loving shepherd is comforting but I know in my own life, there have been times when “tough love” was required to guide me when I was acting like a stubborn goat. In hindsight it’s easier for me to see that a shepherd’s staff was nudging me along while some gates were closed in my life and others were opened up to new and better relationships and opportunities. The Gospel story of the Final Judgment is a compelling image of Christ the King. It’s no coincidence that the Gospel from last week was a parable about using our God given talents. These stories are back to back in the Gospel of Matthew. This weekend’s Gospel makes it clear what separates the sheep from the goats:
- giving food and drink to those in need
- welcoming strangers
- clothing the naked
- caring for the sick and visiting those in prison
The group sent off to eternal punishment failed in two ways. They overlooked the needs of those around them and they made the conscious choice to avoid helping.
To help us avoid these mistakes in our everyday lives I want to leave you with a visual exercise I got from Father John Haugen. We recognize that God is all knowing and understands us better than anyone. Psalm 139 tells us God knows our thoughts and our words even before we do.
This exercise is a visual reflection you can do at the end of each day. Imagine yourself sitting on a couch next to Jesus. You are both watching the video highlights of your day. As the images go by, you are reminded of times you were a good and faithful Christian and the times you may have acted more like a goat. In prayer you can turn to Jesus sitting next to you on the couch. You can ask Him why things went wrong today and what you can do different tomorrow.
You can ask Him to help you better see the needs of those around you and find the love and motivation to help them.
In our parish and community there are countless ways we can help those in need. The St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Social Justice Committee are 2 parish groups that traditionally work with people in need. A Parish Life Committee will soon be formed to help with the role of welcoming and hospitality. Please consider helping on these committees or at one of their functions.
Nativity is a generous parish for making donations for food and clothing but there are many people in our community who need more personal involvement. This can be in the form of organized mentoring or just having someone be a good listener. Local programs like the Hope House, the Food Pantry, Bridges out of Poverty, Drug Court and Jail and Prison Ministry are always looking for volunteers.
At each stage in our faith life there is always something we can do to help those in need. We need to be open to those opportunities and willing to act on them. It may be as simple as giving a welcoming smile to a stranger or visiting a sick friend. Praying for others is gift that anyone can give. There are many famous quotes from St. Mother Teresa that apply here. Here is one of my favorites:
- Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.
As we prepare to celebrate the holidays, let us make a point to see the image of Christ in all people and be open to their needs.