The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Reading 1 EZ 34:11-12, 15-17
Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6
- (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Reading 2 1 COR 15:20-26, 28
Alleluia MK 11:9, 10
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MT 25:31-46
Homily— November 25 & 26, 2017
The feast of Christ the King offers us three different visions of the final days. The first, from the prophet Ezekiel, suggests that, at the end of the world, God will finally appear as the good shepherd to rescue the lost and forsaken. Because the rulers and religious leaders have sought only their own good, God promises to come and seek out the lost, bind up the wounded, and provide pasture for all except the “sleek and strong.” The latter are the ones who took advantage and allowed the others to languish.
Matthew’s Jesus gives us the most electrifying image of the end times. We read about how the Son of Man appears in glory, seated on a throne, surrounded by angels who gather all the world to be judged. Picture that: if it happened today it would be a gathering of 13 billion people. They would be separated between the sheep and the goats. It is estimated that at the time of Our Lord there were 9 sheep to each goat so I am taking that as a sign of encouragement that many will be in heaven. The image from Matthew recognized the responsibility of the people themselves. In Ezekiel, they were passive and their fate was determined by their shepherds. They just followed where they were led. In Matthew, the ones sent to the eternal fire are those who refused to give hospitality or care to those sent in Christ’s name. By spurning God’s representatives, they rejected all that God offered them. They sealed their fate by closing their doors.
The third image in today’s Scriptures comes from Paul’s faith in the universal effects of Christ’s resurrection. Paul’s vision of the end is closer to that of John the Evangelist than to Matthew. John lets us in on Jesus’ vision that in dying he would draw all to himself and that through him al will be one. Paul looks to the moment when God will be all in all, when everyone is drawn into the life and love of God.
All three images come from our tradition and reveal something about God and where this universe is headed. All three images see God’s love at the heart of human history and the history of the universe itself.
The first image emphasized God’s saving love and grace, reminding us that our life is a gift and the God named Emmanuel will be with us always. The second image reminds us that we have been given freedom and that, as we choose how to live, we are fashioning our eternal future. The third way of looking at the end sees Christ drawing all creation toward being caught up in the very energy of God.
For Paul, belonging to Christ means that believers have actually become part of him. His life is ours, and we participate in his future. That is another expression of what he said in Galatians 2:19-20: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” Being in Christ changes everything.
As we celebrate Christ the King, we might concentrate on three dimensions of that message. First, we remember that Christ’s resurrection is the most basic tenet of our faith; there is no Christianity without the resurrection. Second, we recall that Christ’s resurrection has changed history: Everyone who is in Christ participates in his life and will share his future. Third, we remember that God is drawing all things into participation in divine life.
This gospel is about future judgment based on our present discipleship. On this festival honoring Christ the King both the gospel and the first reading speak about others who need our help and our caring for them. We honor Christ the King by acknowledging that he is in the other and with us. No greater honor can we give our Savior-King than to serve him in one another. One of the best ways we can begin to see the Christ in the other is by not judging the negative aspects of their persons first, but instead looking for the good in the other. This can be carried out in such a simple Christian practice as seeking always to compliment rather than to criticize another. Being careful not to spread gossip is another way to do this.
How comforting it is to know that the judgment upon our choices and actions today is not a final one! We must reflect on our daily living and judge for ourselves whether we are being faithful or unfaithful. If found unfaithful, we must choose to change. When we judge ourselves rightly, then we need not fear Jesus’ final judgment. He will count us among his faithful ones and invite us to share his eternal glory.