Nov. 25, 2017

Solemnity of Christ the King


Readings- 1st- Ezk. 34:11-12, 15-17; 2nd- 1 Cor. 15:20-26, 28; Gospel- Matt. 25:31-46

A prominent feature in today’s reading is the image of the shepherd. The shepherd has control over his sheep. The shepherd knows his sheep. The shepherd defends his sheep. Importantly, the shepherd has compassion for the weak ones in his sheepfold. The prophet Ezekiel describes God in those ways, “I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so I will tend my sheep” (Ezk. 34:11-12).

This image of a good shepherd is found in David in the Old Testament. God said to David, "You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel" (2Sam.5:3). Having rejected Saul, God called Samuel to go and anoint a new king for Israel. He said to Samuel, "Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have found myself a king from among his sons" (1Sam.16:1).

The prominent characteristic for choosing David to be king was, "You shall shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler" (1 Chron. 11:2). As Samuel arrived Bethlehem, his conclusion was to pick any of Jesse's seven sons present beginning with Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah. They all looked great and handsome. But God said to Samuel, "God does not see as human beings see; they look at appearances but God looks at the heart" (1Sam.16:6-7). The poor David was tending his father's sheep inside the bush. David's credential, the only resume needed by God was the compassion of a shepherd, one who will shepherd God's flock with tenderness.

That relates to the prophet Ezekiel’s prophecy today, namely, that God was to the Israelites a shepherd. God gathered them and tended to them from wherever they were scattered; “I myself will give them rest. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly”. And he concludes, “As for you my sheep, says the Lord God, I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats” (Ezk. 34: 15-17).

This prophecy is obviously fulfilled in Christ as seen in the gospel. Christ assumes his kingship as Lord. He takes his judgement seat. He separates the sheep from the goat, the good from the bad. He says to the sheep, “Come you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).

Two things should be noted here: First is that Christ is the King of the universe. As we recite in the Nicene Creed, "He will come in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end". Second is that we are meant to inherit the kingdom because it has been prepared for us. Saint Paul remarks, "For he has brought us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his beloved Son". The Kingdom of Christ is our kingdom, the kingdom of life. Christ’s kingship surpasses the kingship of David. Christ is "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation... He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col.1:15, 17-18). 

The Feast of Christ the King always reminds us of a few things: 1) To recognize that Christ is the King of the universe. 2)To ascribe to him all power and dominion.  3)To strive to possess this kingdom which is already prepared for us. How do we possess this kingdom? For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me”.

Christ says to us, "...the kingdom of God is already in your midst" (Lk.17:21). The kingdom of Christ is manifested in every human being since we embody God’s presence. Christ says, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for the one of the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do unto me” (Matt. 25:40).

As King, Christ must reign through our deeds. As Shepherd, he will gather us into his kingdom. Christ wants us to recognize those in need and be compassionate members of his fold. He wants us to be loving and friendly, supportive of the weak sheep in our midst. He wants us to feed the hungry. He wants us to take care of the sick and the needy. He wants us to clothe the naked. He wants us to visit those in prison. He wants us to give water to the thirsty.

Aren’t those acts practical and clear enough? It’s important to recognize that Christ’s Kingship is mostly in the poor. Whenever we perform those acts of charity, we are glorifying God. We are dignifying his kingdom present in his creatures. Whenever we do those good deeds, we are as well enlisting ourselves into his kingdom. And when the Son of Man comes in his glory, he will treat us like the sheep, and not the goats. It is in the weakness of the sheep that strength is made visible. It is in service and love for the weak ones in our midst that our strength is manifested. Dear friends, always seek out the hungry, the naked, the strangers, the sick, the prisoners, the lonely. God wants you to care for them.

May Christ the King be exalted in our lives. Amen.