Sunday, Nov. 23, is the Solemnity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; Psalm 23:1-3, 5-6; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46
At the end of the liturgical year, we see the figure of Christ as he exists in heaven, fully realized: the all-powerful King of the Universe.
The readings this Sunday remind us that Christ is king over each of us — and that his kingdom is a kingdom of love.
First, he is the king over each and all of us. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a story that is more than a parable. He begins, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him …” and continues describing how he will separate people into two camps: sheep and goats. This hearkens back to the first reading, in which the prophet Ezekiel shares God’s plans to do just that: God himself seeking us out.
The message is clear: God regards each of us as an individual who must be judged on our own terms. We will not be saved because we are members of a particular church or ethnicity or nation. We will be saved because of what we each did or failed to do.
But we will not continue in heaven to be celebrated as individual heroes. Our faith in God will not set us apart; it will qualify us for membership in a group.
Second, the King will judge us on love. Today’s Gospel is interesting for what it doesn’t say about Judgment Day. It doesn’t say we will be given a Catechism examination. It doesn’t say God will ask us what causes we supported. It doesn’t say God will look at our church-attendance record.
We know from our faith that all of those things are vital to our faithful perseverance: We should know God through the Church and promote the common good in the world. And if we don’t get to know Christ at Mass each week, we will be in big trouble.
But when Christ sums up our duties on earth, what he cares most about is love. “For I was hungry, and you gave me food,” he says. “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.”
If we know our Catechism, promote good causes and go to Mass regularly but do nothing to show real care and concern for others, we should beware. We have much to fear in the afterlife if what we are missing is love.
Third, Christ is a king of freedom. Christ is a king who gives freely to all. We are called to be the same. We should not love only those who believe what we do about the Catechism, support the causes we do or like Mass the way we like it. We are to take people as we find them and serve — and love — them like Christ. This is the radical message of the Solemnity of Christ the King.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.