Feast of Christ the King – Cycle A
Ez 34:11-12, 15-17 Psalm Ps 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28 Mt 25:31-46
I want to focus our reflections today on four different perspectives of the Gospel; Reflection, Examination, Penance and Action.
The Gospel today helps us to anticipate the great celebration of the coming of Christ as king. In the movie the “Return of the King” there is a great scene towards the end of the movie when one of the Heroes, Aragorn is crowned king of Gondor before all of the peoples of Middle Earth. It is a scene filled with majesty, grandeur, and joy, because it celebrates mans triumph over omnipresent evil in the world, and the restoration of the world to a right order.
This is a useful image for us to keep in mind as we reflect on the Gospel today because today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, where we celebrate the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and rejoice in the fulfillment of all the good that God has done throughout time.
Christ and the Angels
In the Gospel today, Jesus describes this time when he says that he will come “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.”
What comes next in the Gospel today is almost a counterpoint to the grandeur, pomp and circumstance that almost always seems to accompany such great events. Jesus turns to all of the nations gathered before him, and begins to separate them onto his right and his left.
He turns to those gathered on his right, and says to them; “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, 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.”
Then he turns to those who are on his left and says to them; “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.”
The Invisible Men
The elect, those on Christ’s right ask “when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?”
Likewise, those on the left also asked Jesus “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?”
Corporal Works of Mercy as an Examination of Conscience
(How the Gospel Challenges our hearts)
What is startling about the dialog between Christ and the people is that both of them seem to be blind. Both of them fail to recognize the invisible men in their lives.
Caught up in all of this grandeur and magnificence of Christ coming in glory are the invisible women and men who are the key to our salvation. If we are able to recognize these men and women in our lives, then they can help us into the kingdom of heaven.
The Kingdom of God is about sharing our hearts with our neighbors, our brothers and sisters here on earth, with those who are in need. When Jesus separates the sheep from the goats, he does so based on the actions of their hearts.
The challenge of the Gospel today is for us to open up our hearts to those who are hungry for God, thirsty for his love, strangers, naked, sick or in prison.
The Hungry need the Bread of Life
Who are those invisible people in our world who are hungry for the Bread of Life, the Word made Flesh? What about those who are starving for God and we don’t speak to them about the love of God that lives in our own hearts? Is it because our hearts have grown cold, or hardened, or we are ashamed to proclaim Christ as king?
One of the beautiful things about taking a spiritual retreat, a day for refreshing our souls is that it allows us to open up and realize that we are spiritually hungry, starving for the love of God to become active in our lives.
The Thirsty need life-giving water
Who are those in our midst who are thirsty to know that they are loved by God through us? It was an awareness of God’s thirst to love souls that motivated Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta to start literally feeding the hungry, stay with the dying, just to be in relationship with those people who had been abandoned on the streets of Calcutta. Christ is thirsting for souls, that his love be made known to those invisible people who are around us every day, and he is asking you and I to be the vessels of that love.
Welcome those who are strangers to the Kingdom of God
Why is welcoming the stranger in this list? Doesn’t it seem a little out of place in the context of all of the rest? Jesus came to welcome us (who had become strangers to God, because of our sin) back into relationship with His Father. Similarly, He invites his disciples (us) to welcome strangers into relationship so that they too can experience the love of God through us; through our lives. Who is the invisible stranger in our lives? Are they here at the Church, standing beside me, or behind me, or before me? Are they at my work or at my school? God is calling us to share our hearts with our brothers and sisters, because love is always expanding, and it is through us that He has the opportunity to show His love in this world.
Clothe the Naked – Return dignity to the people.
Who are the invisible naked people in our lives? Who are those whom we dehumanize? Who are those who live as objects rather than people in our lives? What do I mean? When we dehumanize someone, when we treat them as a thing and not a person, when we fail to recognize the beauty that God has created in them then we fail to clothe the naked. Sometimes the naked people are those who are at work, either customers or employees that we treat callously, and without love. Sometimes it is when we are trapped in pornography, that we learn to look at everyone as being naked. Is the naked that we are called to clothe ourselves? Have we destroyed the dignity of our bodies through the abuse of drugs or alcohol? Stop and think; who are the naked in your life that need clothing?
Care for the Sick and Imprisoned
Who is imprisoned by sin, trapped by some way of acting or behaving that God is inviting us to go and visit them, so that they can know his love. When Christ came he went and stayed with those who were sick (with sin) and in prison (because of their life style). He stayed with them to heal and to liberate. When the Gospel is lived it always heals (it cures the sickness of our souls), and it frees (It frees us from the shackles of Sin so that we can live as God created us to live. Who are the sick and those in prison that Christ is calling us to visit this week?
Penance – The Corporal Works of Mercy in Action
The Catechism refers to this passage from the Gospel of Matthew as the Corporal Works of Mercy – Meaning that these are ways that we can show God that we love him with our actions, in what we do.
Penance is spiritual medicine for our soul. Practicing penance means that we take concrete actions to correct the habits of sin that we have established in our lives. We can look at the corporal works of mercy as an examination of our conscience, and allow ourselves to be convicted by our sin. After acknowledging our sin, we are called to penance, to show that we can work at reforming our lives. We can use the corporal works of mercy as an opportunity to show our repentance by doing something concrete about our sins.
Faith in Action – Live the works of mercy
Take some time this week and practice the Corporal works of Mercy
• Bring some food to those who are hungry for the food bank.
• Bring some non-perishable drink, or drink mix (dried milk and the like).
• Step out of ourselves and greet those who are strangers in our midst, be they the immigrant, or someone here at mass who we have worshipped with for years and yet do not know.
• Go through our dressers and closets and bring some of our excess clothing here to clothe the naked.
• Consider volunteering some time to visit the sick, those parishioners who are lonely, imprisoned in their homes or at a nursing home. There are parishioners who are going to visit the sick tomorrow and in two weeks to visit the sick after the 8:30 mass on Sunday.
At his coronation the King will point out his servants
At the end of the movie “The Return of the King” in the midst of the victory celebration in which the King is crowned, and honored the King turns and draws attention to those who did his work throughout the story. They were the invisible agents of the King, doing his work, and making his kingdom known.
My dear brothers and sisters, the Gospel calls us to spend our life this week being the invisible agents of the King, feeding the hungry, giving drink to those who thirst, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, and visiting those who are sick and in prison so that they can come to know the fullness of God’s love.