SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST THE KING
On this last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, the Church celebrates the Kingship of Christ. This year, (Cycle A), Christ is presented as a King unlike any other. In the first reading, God is the Shepherd and Provider of his people. In the Gospel, Christ is presented as the Judge who will evaluate all human conduct in the context of compassion for others. In the second reading, Paul states that one day all things will be brought to completion in Christ. At the end of time, Christ will triumph over all evil, the last evil being death itself.
FIRST READING: Ezechiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Our first reading is one of reproach for the leaders of Israel (34:1-10) for they have lived off the sheep without responding to their needs. They provided no care for those who remained close and left those who strayed to their own resources. With their people in great danger the religious leaders provided for themselves even when many people were lost, there was no noticeable difference in their leaders’ care for their flock. Now God himself will assume the role of shepherd. He will bring back the exiled, go after the lost, the wounded and the ill.
SECOND READING: 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Christ’s reign will last until his mission is accomplished and all forces contrary to God are subdued. Paul speaks of the final resurrection of the just and the subjection of all forces of evil to the sovereignty of God. Three Pauline personifications – Christ, Adam and death – are present here. Christians are bonded with each of these: with Adam in the order of nature, with Christ in grace and with death in nature and grace.
GOSPEL: Matthew 25:31-46
In commenting on this Scripture, Patricia Sanchez writes: “Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), the great Russian author, also a Christian who took seriously the demands of the Great Sermon (Matthew 5-7) and attempted to live his life accordingly. One day, a beggar stopped him while he was out walking and asked him for alms. Tolstoy searched his pockets for a coin but, finding none, he said with regret, ‘Please don’t be angry with me, my brother, but I have nothing with me. If I did, I would gladly give it to you.’ At that, the beggar’s face brightened with joy. ‘You have given me more than I asked for,’ he said, ‘you have called me brother!’ Tolstoy had not only grasped the intent of the Great Sermon but he had also penetrated the truth of today’s Gospel. He regarded the poor man asking him for alms as a brother because he had understood and made his own the great commandment (Matthew 22:37). But he had also learned to see the face of Christ in the poor and, because of that insight, he met the criteria of judgment set forth for our consideration in this Matthean text.
So many of the important themes of Matthew’s Gospel come to a climactic crescendo in this eschatological (end times) scene. Up to this point, readers of Matthew have been told that wheat and weeds will grow together until harvest, that all species of fish will be hauled together in one net, that good and bad will grow together until the final separation. Believers have also been instructed, through many parables, with lessons of watchfulness and waiting. With this passage, it becomes evident that the time of growing together and waiting has passed, yielding to the moment of
separation and judgment.
In this Gospel, Jesus is revealed as the King who will judge us on the criteria of compassion for the least of our brothers and sisters. The blessed are those who have ministered to the needs of the poor. In doing so, they have ministered to Christ himself.
When you reflect about your final judgment by the Lord, what do you think you will be judged on?