Readings: Ez 34:11-12, 15-17; 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28; Matt 25:31-46
The king who welcomes and rewards those who show compassion to the less fortunate, but also a king who rejects and punishes those who show no concern or do nothing. On this last Sunday of the year, as we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, the theme of preparedness reaches a climax. The final judgement takes place on the basis of our compassion and care for others or the lack of it. The prophet Ezekiel in the First Reading uses the image of a shepherd to underline how much God loves and cares for his people with compassion and tenderness. Thus, God assumes the role of shepherd for his sheep, finding the lost, gathering the scattered, healing the wounded and caring for all. God as Shepherd is also presented as Judge between one sheep and another, between rams and he-goats”, – a reference to separating the good from the bad. In the second reading, Paul portrays Jesus Christ as a powerful and awesome Lord and King. Yet we know that Jesus is the “King of Hearts” not “King of Clubs”. “In him shall all be brought to life.” Christ is presented as ruler to whom all power and authority must eventually give way. He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death. Christ represents life, life in all its fullness. Christ’s purpose is to share that life with every single person. “For Just as in Adam all die, so too all in Christ all shall be brought to life”, having subjected all evil forces. The last enemy to be subjected is death.
The Gospel passage from Matthew 25 is referred by some scripture scholars as the “Ten Commandments of the New Testament”. The passage explains how our entire salvation in the end hinges on how we cared or did not care for the less fortunate. We are told how Jesus will come in glory, sit on the Throne where all the nations will be gathered. Then He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep will be placed at His right and the goats at His left, which indicates the separation of the good and from the bad. That separation is done in a special way that surprises all. They discover their ignorance of the presence of Jesus in their brothers and sisters. Now they have even greater surprise when Jesus invites them into the kingdom or rejects them right at the door, for just as you did or did not do it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did or did not do it to me. The truth is that Jesus identifies with every person created in God’s image and likeness. We note that none of the things Jesus mentions are religious in nature; there is no direct mention of any commandments observed or violated; people are condemned not for doing anything that is morally wrong but inaction; for failure to show compassion. Whatever we do centres round Jesus because He is truly present in every person we meet. Today’s Gospel therefore echoes the eternal divine love and justice of Jesus Christ our King, who shows his compassion to those who have shown God’s mercy and compassion to their brothers and sisters. What message do we take home? 1) Jesus in the Gospel teaches us how his followers should live while on their earthly journey. 2) In response to that message we are challenged to show compassion and care to Christ’s less fortunate children, because at the final judgement, the criterion will be the very life and concern of Christ towards others and particularly the less fortunate whom we meet every day. 3) To put this message into practice, this coming season of Advent, one might choose a particular work of mercy, and do it out of Christian concern and solidarity. Concretely, one may visit the sick, the elderly, prisoners or volunteer to for one of the parish outreach ministries. There you will indeed meet Jesus Christ the King!
©2017 John S. Mbinda