Ez 34:11-12,15-17 Ps 23 1 Cor 15:20-26,28 Mt 25:31-46
On this particular Sunday - this last Sunday in the church year, the Church proclaims in a particular way that Jesus Christ is sovereign over all the universe. And so we call this feast day the “Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King.”
The readings that the church selects for our reflection are a powerful teaching. The first reading from the book of the prophet Ezekiel describes God as being like a shepherd tending his flock. Likewise, Psalm 23 describes the Lord’s actions as being like a shepherd of the flock.
The prophet Ezekiel describes the Shepherd doing these things for the sheep. Consider this list of the tasks.
1. Rescue them when they are scattered
2. feed them with good pastures.
3. give them rest.
4. seek out the lost and the strayed and bring them back.
5. bind up the wounded and heal the sick.
Psalm 23 is a strong reflection of these same ideas from Ezekiel. These are wonderful and consoling verses of sacred scripture. They remind us of how much God loves us and how God chooses - in great humility - to serve us in love. God showed us this love in a very concrete way through Jesus. He truly is the good shepherd who loves us and who helps us.
When we think about it - we have all experienced the love of Jesus the good shepherd. For he does these things for us.
Jesus heals our sickness.
Jesus frees us from the prison of sin and death.
Jesus welcomes us who were once strangers to his covenant.
Jesus clothes us in baptism.
Jesus feeds us with the food and drink of His own body and blood.
Our God has shown us amazing love in Jesus our Good Shepherd.
The scriptures then take us a step further. The reading from the 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians and also from the 25th Chapter of Matthew depicts Jesus as the sovereign with every authority and power. He will sit upon his glorious throne and will judge the nations.
His measure of judgment is quite clear. The blessed are the ones who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirst, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, cared for the ill, and visited the imprisoned. The condemned are the ones who did not do these things.
This means that the connection between the first reading and the psalm with the second reading and the gospel are very clear. God has shown each of us great kindness and love. And God commands that we do likewise if we want to enter into his presence.
So, here we are in his presence.
We have gathered in his name - and he is present among us.
We have listened to the Word - and he has spoken to us.
Jesus himself will take the bread, bless it, break it, and give it to us through the hands of the priest. Jesus himself will feed us.
Many saints have seen a very real connection between what Jesus is saying in this gospel reading and in his presence in the Holy Eucharist. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said it this way. “In Holy Communion we have Christ under the appearance of bread. In our work we find Him under the appearance of flesh and blood. It is the same Christ. ‘I was hungry, I was naked, I was sick, I was homeless.’”
The readings today call us to recognize Jesus and follow him. First of all, let us recognize the kindness of Jesus toward us as a Good Shepherd. Let us offer him our thanks for the many ways in which he has cared for us. All the ways in which he has blessed us. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right and just.
Second of all, let us respond to Jesus’ call to practice that same loving service by recognizing him in the least of these our brothers and sisters. He comes to us disguised as the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the homeless, the sick, and the imprisoned. Jesus is here among us in the distressing disguise of the poor. Do we see him as he has seen us? Do we love him as he has loved us? Do we care for him as he has cared for us?
The condemned in the gospel have one basic vice in common. They ignore the presence of Jesus by ignoring the needs of others. Like the parable of the rich man and the poor beggar Lazarus - the rich man was condemned to eternal torment because he never saw Lazarus in his great need. The opposite of love truly is apathy. And so it is that they will go off to eternal torment, having chosen their eternal separation from God.
The blessed in the gospel have one basic virtue in common. They minister to Jesus who comes to them in the distressing disguise of the poor. They choose love. And because of their love they will be able to hear these words from Christ the King.
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”