34th Sunday A
CHRIST THE KING
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what we celebrate today is the kinship of Christ over our lives. We celebrate our readiness to follow him along the path of life and to live like him. Our celebration today would have included Eucharistic procession, but for the Coronavirus pandemic.
It was Pope Pius XI who instituted this celebration into the Liturgy in 1925 with the encyclical Quas Primas. It was at a time when the world was dominated by totalitarian regimes—Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin— The pope sought to remind the world that Jesus Christ is the only sovereign king. The celebration challenges us to see Christ in everyone particularly the lowliest of society.
First Reading ( Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 15-17)
Ezekiel’s prophecy in our first reading today, happened at a time of great tribulation in the land of Israel. Jerusalem and its wonderful temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians. They had razed down its walls and gone on rampage indulging in all kinds of violence and cruelty. For this reason many had to run for safety. Some ran into the mountains, others to Egypt but many who were supposed to be the professionals of the time, were taken as slaves to Babylon leaving only peasant farmers, the aged and perhaps women and children. Many years later, things do not seem to have changed significantly for the better. It was at a time like this, that God called Ezekiel and gave him the message that he will not send other kings who are likely to continue to exploit the people, but he will shepherd his people by himself.
When God said, he will be the shepherd of his people, we should understand that, in the sense of a farmer, that is very close to his sheep, surrounds them with care and thoughtfulness, and sees to it that the weak ones are helped to become strong. The Church today, as we celebrate this feast reminds us, that Christ is the only shepherd who can care for his sheep this way. But still we share in this ministry of Christ, by the fact of our baptism.
The Responsorial Psalm is a song in praise of this shepherd, acknowledging that the Lord himself is our shepherd and it is only with him, that we cannot lack anything especially the place of rest which is eternal life.
Second Reading (1 Corinthians 15: 20 -26, 28)
At the time Paul was writing, the basic understanding of the second coming of Jesus, comprised the appearance of two kingdoms: the first will be the kingdom of the Messiah, while the second will comprise the kingdom of God. In the kingdom of the messiah, all the enemies of God will be brought under the feet of the Messiah and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death. When Paul talks of the enemies of the Lord here, he does not refer to human beings but to the forces of evil that dominate, cause pain and suffering. All those who are fighting these forces, are definitely working for the establishment of the kingdom of God. When the building of the Kingdom of Christ is complete, St Paul says that the Messiah will now hand over things to the father.
Gospel (Matthew 25: 31-46)
The Old Testament tells us of the coming kingdom of Christ. ”But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days" (Micah 5:1). Daniel presents "one coming like a son of man ... to him was given dominion and glory and kingship that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed" (Daniel 7: 13-14).
The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the long-awaited king of the Jews. In the Annunciation story, 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.”(Lk.1:32-33) When the Magi came to visit, they asked the question: “Where is the baby born to be the King of the Jews? We saw his star… and we have come to worship him.”(Mt 2:2) When Jesus came to Jerusalem on a colt, the people sang, “Blessed is the King, who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Lk 19:38) At his trial, Pilate asked Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?"(Jn 18:33) Jesus, responded, “You say that I am a King. For this was I born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the Truth. Everyone who belongs to the Truth listens to My Voice”(John 18:37) The inscription that hung upon Jesus’ head on the cross read: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews,” (Lk 23:36; see also, Mt 27:37; Mk 15:26; John 19:19-20). To the repentant thief who asked: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” Jesus replied: “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”(Luke 19:39-43). Before His Ascension into Heaven, the Risen Jesus declared: “I have been given all authority in Heaven and on earth.” (Mt. 28:18)
In the Gospel of Matthew, there is no need to search far to get an appropriate passage for the celebration of this feast. It proposes for our own contemplation the solemn intervention of the Son of Man when he “comes in his glory, and all the angels with him.” When he appears as king to judge, he will consider very simple things, and these are works of mercy and charity.
Just as a farmer separates the sheep from the goats so will the end of time be as the Lord will gather the nations and separate people based on how they have attended to him in the poorest of the society. Our meeting with God here, is described as a time to take stock and to give account of our lives and living on earth.
Just like in the parable of the talents, we will have to give account on our relationship with those around us—the weak, and the forgotten people of our world. The world is full of those in need of help and particularly those we are capable of loving and helping; the world is full of hungry people, in need of food; of sick people, in need of care; of oppressed people, in need of liberation; but very often such people are ignored by those who should help them, or even oppressed by those who should rescue them. We shall be judged on the basis of whether we have ministered to Christ in those around us.
The demands of the Lord in this passage are not too big for anyone. He asks that we ‘feed the hungry’—about a third of the world’s population is starving, yet there are homes where people waste food. He demands that we should ‘welcome strangers’—a clear reminder that we are all strangers and sojourners here in this world. The world of our time is full of refugees and displaced people. Jesus claims to be in them. He demands that we should ‘go to see those in prison’—he had first hand experience of that isolation and imprisonment, but we are in one way or another imprisoned by our own faults and sins. The physical prisons of the world are full of many who have lost touch with their humanity and have surrendered themselves to crime and anti-social tendencies. Our love, Jesus says, is needed by such people. He demands that, ‘we care for the sick’—we fall sick sometimes and cherish the love of friends and family. We can extend that love which we cherish to others.
Think of what you can do this week in response to his demands.
- We need to surrender ourselves to Christ and live under his rule. He must be the king of our hearts and souls.
- We need to fight and overcome worldly things that are opposed to the rule of Christ. We must counter the culture of death in all its forms by promoting the culture of life. We must combat the culture that seeks to blur the vision of God from the society by placing Christ at the centre of everything. We must come against every form of abuse of the human person and slavery; we must promote a genuine love of prayer and worship of God by the love we show to our neighbours.
- We need to promote his kingdom and let the world hear his message of peace. The renewal of our society, home, parish and place of work, by making them Christ’s abode. Jesus must reign in our hearts and over all our concerns.
May you find joy and happiness as you continue to serve the Lord in the weakest ones in the society and those on the margins of history. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen!