Breaking Open the Word
Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 26, 2023
Today is Sunday, November 26th. It is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. We see in the readings for today the diversity of our King. Christ, by taking on our humanity, bent down, humbled Himself and became man. Not only that, He came to be our shepherd. However, we see the power and majesty of this great King. Christ sits on a heavenly throne and exercises dominion over the universe. While Christ is a just judge, and a merciful one, we must respect that He sits in judgement of each of us and over the entire world.
We see tender language in the First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel. Note what the Lord God says about Himself:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.
I myself will pasture my sheep.
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.
The word “I” is used constantly. This task of shepherding is deeply personal between you and the Lord God; It is not something Christ “outsources.”
Notice, however, the ending of the First Reading – “As for you, my sheep, says the Lord God, I will judge between one sheep an another, between rams and goats.”
Shepherd and Judge - we have to mindful that Christ the King is both!
The Gospel from Matthew describes the second coming of Christ in Jesus’ own words. Jesus says to His disciples, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.”
There will be a final judgement; a separation of the sheep and the goats. The righteous at the right hand of Christ the King, will inherit the Father’s Kingdom and receive eternal life. Unfortunately, those to the left of Christ the King will be sent off to eternal punishment. I find it interesting that the deciding factors between eternal life and eternal punishment are centered around mercy and, specifically, the corporal works of mercy. There are seven corporal works of mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and bury the dead. Except for burying the dead, all of the corporal works of mercy are, in Jesus’ own words, represented in today’s Gospel.
Most importantly, according to Jesus, we find Him in the hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, homeless and sick. Ignoring those less fortunate is ignoring Christ.
In reflecting on the First Reading and the Gospel, I see a connection between what the “Good Shepherd” is saying about shepherding His sheep and what Jesus is asking us to do in shepherding our fellow brothers and sisters. I spoke earlier in this refection of the tender language of the shepherd in the first reading. We saw words like “look after”, “tend”, “rescue”, “pasture”, “give rest”, “seek out”, “bring back”, “bind up”, and “heal” in the First Reading. That sounds, at least to me, a lot like the words we saw in the corporal works of mercy and in the Gospel today; words like “feed”, “give drink to”, “clothe”, “visit”, and “shelter”.
Could it be that the Lord God, our shepherd, is simply asking us to shepherd others? Could it be that Christ the King is simply asking us to extend mercy to others in the manner we hope He will extend towards us at the final judgement?
Theme in our Life Today
Christ the King is asking us to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty. How do we do that? We could donate food to a pantry, donate our time at a soup kitchen, or send a monetary donation to an organization focused on the feeding others.
Christ the King is asking us to clothe the naked and shelter the homeless. How do we do that? We could go through our closets and dressers and take items that we rarely wear and drop them off at the St. Vincent DePaul box at the parish. We could stop down at the lower level of the Church and pick up a few tags for Shared Christmas. We could volunteer our time at a homeless shelter. We could, when we shop for clothes for ourselves or for Christmas gifts for others, pick up a few more items and donate them to a coat or a clothing drive.
Christ the King is asking us to visit the sick and the imprisoned. How do we do that? We could stop in to check on an elderly neighbor or visit a friend in the hospital. We could volunteer to be an eucharist minister for the homebound. We could seek out opportunities, through the prison ministry at our parish or in our diocese to write to, or pray for, those who are imprisoned.
Prepare for Sunday
Do you see Jesus as your shepherd? Do you see Him as your King? Why or why not?
What emotions do you feel when reading the Gospel account of the second coming of the Son of Man? What might God be telling you based on those emotions?
How prominent are the corporal works of mercy in your everyday life? What can you do to improve or change that?