The Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
LORD, WHEN DID WE SEE YOU HUNGRY AND FEED YOU?
In this last Sunday in our liturgical year, the Church celebrates the universal kingship of Jesus and the end times when "the Son of Man comes in his glory". As we get ready to prepare for the first coming of Christ in the nativity (Advent), the Church turns our attention to the final judgement when Christ will come in his glory to judge all nations.
In our first reading (Ezekiel 34:P11-12, 15-17), the Lord God promises both comfort and justice when he himself will come and rescue his scattered sheep while judging harshly those shepherds (leaders of Israel) who have fattened themselves at the expense of their flock.
Thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly. As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD, I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.
In our Gospel reading (Matthew 31-46), Jesus concludes his "end times discourse", which we have been reading the past few Sundays, with a vivid description of his second coming. "When the Son of Man comes in his glory", Jesus will judge the nations according to their actions. The righteous will be astonished to learn that in caring for the needs of others, they were ministering to the Lord.
Jesus said to his disciples: "When the Son of Man comes 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. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, '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 the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, 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?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then he will say to those on his left, '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.' Then they will answer and say, '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?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
In our epistle reading (1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28), St. Paul proclaims Christ's death, resurrection and coming again as the new "Adam". He talks about those who "belong to Christ" being raised at his coming, and then the end, when all nations will be subjected to the King.
Brothers and sisters: Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.
Both our first reading and Gospel use the metaphor of the separation of goats and sheep as the final judgement. It is a distinction possibly lost on us, but not on the original audience of these readings. Sheep are meek, gentle and defenseless, totally dependent on their shepherd for their protection and nourishment. They know their masters voice and will follow him anywhere. Goats, on the other hand, are strong willed, quick tempered and independent. They tend not to follow their goatherd and are not easily led. In a sense, sheep are poor in spirit, goats are the opposite. Christ is our shepherd, we are his sheep.
- Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017