The end of the Liturgical Year has arrived and today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, a relatively new institution from 1925 (by Pope Pius XI) when compared to the two thousand years of Church history. After today we won’t read from Mathews’ Gospel again until Cycle A returns in two years.
In the last account by Matthew of Jesus’ teaching his disciples, before the Passion story, after the last parable (which we heard last Sunday), Christ talks about his second coming (Parusia) at the end of times (Eschatology - from the Greek Eschatos meaning last and logy meaning the study of). Sitting upon his throne he will separate from the assembled nations, the righteous from the unjust like a shepherd separates sheep from goats. The sheep (economically more valuable in rural Palestine than the goats) on his right, representing those who have been found worthy of final victory and reward, because when Christ was hungry they fed him, when thirsty gave him to drink, clothed when naked, welcomed when stranger, cared when ill and visited in prison. The righteous will ask, when it was that they saw Christ hungry, thirsty, naked, ill, estranged or in prison. And the startling answer is: ‘Whatever you did to the least brothers of mine, you actually did it for me’, giving us the not too surprising information that Jesus has chosen to identify himself with the powerless ones, so that our attitude toward them will reveal how we really feel about Jesus also. It was recorded in excruciating detail so that the followers would have no doubt what it meant. To us today the meaning remains unchanged, being the central point of the story the criterion that will be used for determining who will be judged worthy and who will be rejected. We are told that the decisive factor in rendering judgment will be an account of how well we have cared for the less fortunate people among us. They are enumerated four times in the gospel story so that there is unquestionable clarity about their identity: they are the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, strangers and prisoners.
Furthermore these can be seen as examples of a more general category of the powerless and needy ones. Some of the neediest among us are those who are living in the bondage of low self-esteem. This kind of bondage often hides behind a facade of feigned self-sufficiency or even joviality. The loving, sensitive person will know how to penetrate such defenses and to bring a degree of freedom to such unhappy ones. I once heard a homilist say that perhaps the only question that will be asked of us at the last judgment will be taken from the story of the Exodus: Did you let my people go? Our strong inclination is to hoard our precious freedom and to use it only to protect ourselves against the needs of others. The thought of a final judgment is often a source of fear and anxiety. However, it will be a wonderful experience for all who have helped to free others from the bondage of paralyzing fear and guilt and low self-esteem. In this way, we will have become one with Jesus, who came into our world for that very purpose.
First Reading of the great apocalyptic writer Ezekiel helps us deal with our own losses of direction from time to time, given that God assumes the role of the shepherd that seeks out the lost, brings back the strayed, binds ups the injured, heals the sick.
Two verses of today’s Second Reading from the letter of Paul to the Corinthians were put to music by George Frideric Handel in 1741, while residing in
Matthews’ Gospel today is the Judgment of the Nations story.
A complete text of the readings at: http://www.usccb.org/nab/112308.shtml
A worthwhile ten minutes is to read the Gospel Mt 25:31-46 and in case we feel more ‘goat like’ about our recent attitudes, take on Reading 1 Ez 34:11-12, 15-17 from the above listed link and be assured that God will bring us back.
With God’s Love and Blessings,