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CHRIST THE KING Year A

The Gospel challenges us to see the broken body of Christ in the brokenness around us.

CHRIST THE KING Year A

Ez. 34:11-12; 1 Cor. 15:20-26, 28; Mt 25:31-46

I'd like to begin with a short story. Once a priest was giving a homily and as he went on, he became more animated. He made a sweeping gesture - and knocked his papers from the ambo. He scrambled to pick them up, then asked, "Now, where was I?" A voice from the congregation responded, "Father, right near the end!”.  We are at the end - not of the homily but of the liturgical year. On this final Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. We acknowledge Jesus as king of the universe and of our lives. This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 with his encyclical Quas Primas (“In the first”) to respond to growing nationalism and secularism. The feast reminds us that while governments and philosophies come and go, Christ reigns as King forever. Christ’s reign is a conquest not over political enemies but over the powers of sin and death. His rule is redemption.

In the scripture readings today, there are contrasting images of Christ presented to us - Jesus Christ as King, as Shepherd and as Judge.  In the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul presents a powerful picture of Christ as Lord and King. Christ is presented as the all-powerful ruler to whom every other power and authority must eventually give way. And his is an “eternal and universal kingdom: kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.” (Preface). However, the other two readings give a very different picture of God and Jesus- his visible incarnation. The First Reading presents God as a shepherd. Prophet Ezekiel realized the importance of good leaders. Much of the misfortune that had befallen Israel had been due to bad leadership. So, in the end God himself will assume the mantle of leadership. He will be a true shepherd to bring back together the scattered remnants of his flock. But even then, individuals will be responsible for their own salvation, for God will judge between one sheep from another, between rams and goats.  Ezekiel’s prophecy found fulfillment in Jesus, the Good Shepherd. In the Gospel passage, St Matthew gives us an apocalyptic vision of the last judgment when all the nations- without distinction between Jew and Gentile, without discrimination between priest and people are assembled before the king. In Matthew’s vision we have a list of human needs and appropriate responses by a caring community. None of the needs is spectacular. And to those ordinary human needs there is the response of the kingdom; a response that is honored by the invitation “Come, you who are blessed by my Father”

The “blessed” are praised for the simplest actions- they are all actions not attitudes- to those who experience simple human needs. There are not records of great heroism, not stories of conquest, not marvelous triumphs over disaster, not exploits of imaginative daring. The responses are simple and do not go beyond the capacity of any human being. No training is required, no academic qualifications are necessary. These actions are included in the Corporal Works of Mercy, as they stress physical needs to promote and sustain life. Jesus reminds us that by serving others and supplying their needs, we serve God. The actions are simple responses of those who pay attention to what happens in the world of the familiar and then move to answer the needs which confront them. These little acts of kindness have eternal significance.

Those who are blessed are not conscious of having done any special service to Jesus; “Lord, when did we see you …….?”. They responded with mercy to those in need without any great thought beyond that response. And those who are cursed are not accused of violent crimes or offenses on a grand scale. They are accused because they failed to act on the human need they saw before them.  The shared problem of the blessed and the cursed is; “When did we see you?”.  That may be our question too.

Dear friends, 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 stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned. To pay attention to them is to pay attention to the broken body of Christ. And to do that is to be welcomed as blessed of God who live as a community of compassion and mercy.

 

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