Fr. Roger J. Landry
Espirito Santo Parish, Fall River, MA
Solemnity of Christ the King, Year A
November 24, 2002
Ez 34:11-12, 15-17; Ps 23; 1Cor 15:20-28; Mt 25:31-46
1) Today with the whole Church we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. This is the end of the Church’s liturgical year. Next week is New Year’s Day in the Church, the first Sunday of Advent, in which we begin our preparations to celebrate the birth of Christ and his second coming. This feast is the period on the Church’s liturgical year, the culmination of everything we have been discussing over the course of the past 51 weeks. It’s all geared toward to conclusion, toward the fact, that Jesus Christ is truly King of the Universe. This is a fact, whether no one outside this building recognizes it, He is. Whether 51% of the electorate would elect him as King of the Universe, it doesn’t change the fact that he is. And certainly at the end of the time, when he comes in all his glory to judge the living and the dead, that fact will be apparent to all. And we celebrate this feast with great joy, because we, by God’s grace, know this reality. But knowing this reality is not enough.
2) If Christ is truly King of the Universe — and he is! — then Christ is and must be King of this World. If Christ is really King of this world — and he is! — then he must be King of my life. And if Christ is really King of my life — is he? — then he must be King of every part of my life. I must let him reign in all parts of my life, if he is truly my Lord, my God, my King. So this feast is a great day to ask ourselves, to examine our consciences, whether Christ is truly King of our lives, whether he rules everywhere.
• If he’s king of my life, then he should be king of my time. Is he? How much time did we spend with him yesterday? If a private investigator were going to follow us all day today, would he conclude that Christ is our King, or that Tom Brady or Bill Belichick is our king? During the upcoming week, how much time have we already charted out for him?
• If he’s king of my life, then he must be king of every part of my life, and therefore he should be king of my money as well. One-hundred percent of our money comes from God. All of it. (This is something important to remember during this week of Thanksgiving). Do we look at ourselves as stewards of his gifts or as owners, as gods of our own money? Did you pray this week about how much to put in the envelope? Would God judge you generous? I’m not sure if you’re like me, but every November I start to get bombarded with requests for money to help out various good causes, especially causes to assist the poor and to spread the faith. When you receive these, do you consult the Lord in prayer about how you should respond? How much you give or don’t give is in some sense secondary to whether or not you take it to the Lord and consult him over it, acknowleding that he is indeed King here. And this applies as well to young people. When you receive some money, either by doing some odd jobs or gifts, do you look at it exclusively yours, or do you consult the Lord about how to spend it? If Christ is truly king, he needs to be king here too.
• If Christ is King of the Universe, the world, my life and every part of our lives, then he also must be king of our love lives. I remember having a conversation with a teenager not too long ago at the high school. I asked him if he invites Jesus along with him on dates. He started laughing and looked at me as a little strange. “I guess three’s a crowd, Father,” he replied, which at least was a witty answer. But I asked him why he didn’t invite Jesus on his dates. He blushed a little bit, and his body language gave away the answer. He didn’t invite Jesus because he knew Jesus wouldn’t approve of some of the ways he behaved on dates. Jesus was not yet King of this guys’ love life. But it could be the same thing for married couples. Is Jesus the king of every room in your house? Many couples today, including Catholic couples, may invite him into the kitchen or dining room at meals during grace time, but they lock him outside the bedroom door. “No one’s going to tell me what’s right or wrong here,” they can say. But this is not consistent with someone who believes that Christ is King.
3) Knowing that Christ is King is not enough, as I said above. It’s obeying Christ the King. It’s worshipping him as the King. Christ is not a dictator. He doesn’t force our freedom in his kingdom. He made us free ultimately so that we can love. And in THIS life, his kingship style is shown in the first reading and the responsorial psalm. “Thus says the Lord God: 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 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, shepherding them rightly.” The Lord rules as a Shepherd, as an all-powerful, all-loving Shepherd, helping us. In the psalm, which is one of the most famous and beautiful, we proclaim, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I should want.” Jesus is our Shepherd, we lack for nothing, we have it all. He refreshes our soul, he guides us in right paths for his names’ sake, he anoints us, brings us to goodness and kindness and allows us to dwell in the Lord’s own house.
4) But how do we enter into this kingdom of Christ? We pray in the prayer he taught us, “Thy Kingdom Come!” and this kingdom begins whenever we do what comes next: thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We enter God’s kingdom here in this world, and forever in the next, when we do God’s will. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, tells us this in St. John’s Gospel. He, the King, is the Good Shepherd and says, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me. They hear my voice and they follow me.” To be the Sheep of the Good Shepherd means hearing his voice and following him, as we’ve been talking about, in all parts of life. But Jesus, the Good Shepherd, goes much farther than that. He says, “I am the Good Shepherd. I lay down my life for my sheep.” Jesus died for each one of us, so that we might enter into his kingdom. Imagine if you were in a get-together with President Bush in the front row. And then some terrorist entered the room with a gun, open to open fire randomly and President Bush leaped down from the stage and took the bullet directed toward you, and died. How incredible would that be? Well, Jesus, the King of the Universe, took your bullet. He died so that you wouldn’t die and have a chance to truly live. He’s done it all for us. He speaks to us in his word. He makes heaven possible for us by his life, death and resurrection. He feeds us with his very own body and blood as our spiritual food. This is our king. A king who loves us this much.
5) The whole point of human life is to say yes to this king, to listen to the Good Shepherd’s voice, to follow in his fold, in his footsteps of self-giving love. But this is something we need to do in this life, to enter into that house of the Lord for all eternity. Because there is a buzzer on the time of human life. And when the time is up, Jesus the King of the Universe will come again as a Shepherd, but then he will ratify our choices, and allow us to live in the Kingdom we have chosen by our actions in life.
6) He tells us that in today’s Gospel. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels of heaven, he will sit upon his royal throne and all the nations will be assembled before him. Then he will separate them into two groups, as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. The sheep he will place on his right hand, the goats on his left.” He will come and separate all of us into two groups. We will end up on one side or another. This will happen and Jesus, out of love, is telling us that it will happen. This is going to be the final examination of our life. Our whole life is meant to be a period of preparation, but if we blow off our study, our prep time, we’ll fail that exam and end up on his left. A shepherd would separate his sheep from his goats each night because the sheep were much more sensitive to the cold, the rain, the elements; they’d sleep with the shepherd in some enclosure, generally a cave. The goats would sleep outside. Jesus is saying that at the end of time, he will separate all of us into two groups, those who will come in with him and those will be outside forever. What criteria will he use? He gives those in the Gospel. “For I was hungry, and you fed me; thirsty and you gave me something to drink; naked and you clothed me; a stranger and you welcomed me; ill and you comforted me; in prison and you came to visit me.” Jesus doesn’t give us an exhaustive list of actions we could do for others, but he mentions that everything we do out of love for another he takes personally. While saying that, though, we shouldn’t just skip over what he says. When was the last time you gave some food to someone who was hungry and asked? Or gave some clothes to those less fortunate? Or visited someone who was sick in the hospital or in a nursing home? Have you ever visited someone in prison or in a juvenile detention center?
Those on his left.
Choices to be made in this life.
In preparation for thanksgiving. Big chance to help others. Christ will be hungry in homes in this city. Tomorrow nights’ Mass.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who died out of love for us, wants at the end of time to pronounce the words from today’s Gospel. But it’s our choice. He’s done everything possible. He gave us his word. He died to open the gates to his kingdom. He gave us what’s going to be on the final exam of life, this query on loving him, whether we recognized him or not. He gave us the principle to recognize we’re loving him in every one we love, parents, children, friends, enemies, patients, clients, students, teachers, etc. Now it’s our turn to choose whether we’re really going to serve Christ the King, in all the parts of our life. If we do that, and do that starting right now, then perhaps one day we will hear those most beautiful of words, the ones for whom our ears were made in the womb of our mothers however many years ago: “Come, O You Blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the beginning of time.”
Christ is the King. May his kingdom come!