Christ the King (A); November 26, 2017
Ez 34:11-12 Ps 23 1 Cor 15:20-26,28 Mt 25:31-46
Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison
As we conclude our liturgical year, the Church invites us to fix our gaze on Jesus, the King of the Universe, who is the beginning and end of Salvation History. As King, Jesus preached and taught the Kingdom of God, which was the driving force of his ministry. At Mass, there is a beautiful prayer in the preface that reminds us that the Kingdom of God “is a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.” The readings we’ve just heard reflect this prayer and show us three things: (1) how Jesus established his Kingdom; (2) how he brings it about in history; (3) what he expects of us.
First, how did our King establish his Kingdom? He did so, not through violent conquest, intimidation, or manipulation, which, too often, is the way of the world, but by coming close to us so that we could experience his tenderness towards us in the same way a mother weans her child on her lap (cf. Ps 131:2). The King of Kings is a Shepherd, of whom the Prophet Ezekiel spoke about in the First Reading (cf. 34:11-12). These verses show the love and care the Shepherd has for each one of us, his flock. He loves us so much that he searches for us; he leads us to pasture so that we may experience Life fully; if we become lost, he seeks us out; he leads back the broken, the bruised, wounded, the sick, to take care of them, to pasture.
From Revelation 5, we know that all the Old Testament readings are about Jesus. So, all of these descriptions are fulfilled in Jesus: he is truly “the great shepherd of the sheep and the protector of our souls” (cf. Heb 13:20; 1 Pt 2:25).
After his Death and Resurrection, how does Jesus continue to advance his Kingdom? The Apostle Paul in the 1st Letter to the Corinthians, says: “for he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (15:25). The Father, subjects all things to his Son who is the Sovereign, of whom is due our ultimate allegiance. At the same time, our Lord models obedience for us by subjecting himself to the Father’s will, even by sacrificing his life for our good—namely, to bring about the salvation of the world.
Unlike the rulers of this world, Jesus governs by willingly obeying his Father’s will in order to bring about the fulfilment of salvation. Isn’t that a paradox? Jesus rules by submitting to his Father’s will. In so doing, there is a free-flow of unencumbered loving energy between the Father and the Son, which is revealed to us as the Holy Spirit. Since we are made in the image of God, who is self-gifting Love, our challenge is to say “Yes” to God’s loving energy, his grace in our ordinary lives, regardless of what our specific condition may be. Why? Brothers, the Kingdom of God is happening right here and now: everything is becoming subject to the Son, who will give everything over to the Father at the Last Judgment. Moreover, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:26). And, in the end, when all things will be under the rule of Jesus, and everything including Jesus himself, will be subjected to the Father, God will be all in all (v. 28). That’s the trajectory of Salvation History. Do you want to join your personal story with this great Vision? If so, listen to the Gospel in Matthew 25.
The tone becomes somber because were told in no uncertain terms what Jesus’ kingdom requires of us. The account picks up the idea of separating sheep, found in Ezekiel’s reading, and it does so in terms of judgment: if we’re really close to the tenderness and mercy of Jesus, we will live a certain way: we will become tender and merciful. Listen: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me , I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Mt 25:34-36). The righteous are kind of bewildered because they don’t seem to not to remember ever doing that for Jesus, but he will answer them: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (v. 40). And, we’re told that is how we are going to be judged: “Whatever you did to one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me”(Mt 25:40).
Notice that the starting point of salvation is not confessing that Jesus is Lord and King or engaging in devotional practices. Rather, it is by imitating Jesus works of mercy which brings about his Kingdom here and now. The one who does that shows that he has welcomed Jesus into his heart and soul as his Lord and Savior. His behavior confirms his Faith. Because he believes that Jesus is Immanuel, God among us, he has opened his heart to God’s charity which now flows in and through him to others. As we move towards the end of our lives, that is how we are going to be judged: how did we put love into action: how did we show tenderness towards our brothers and sisters, especially those most in need?
Brothers, his kingdom begins right here and now. The Kingdom of God is not outside the walls of Folsom Prison, but is here as well if you say “yes” to the Father’s will. And, we do that by imitating Jesus as best we can. By being close to those who are in need, we express in concrete ways those who ask for bread, clothing, acceptance, fellowship, and the Wisdom of the Good News. If we truly love them, we will be willing to share with them what is most precious to us: Jesus himself and his Gospel. Amen!