KINGSHIP – 26 Novemer 2017, Christ the King (A)

Ez 34:11-12, 15-17; 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28; Mt 25:31-46
Edmond Lo

In celebrating the feast of Christ the King, one would expect the Mass readings to showcase Jesus, the Messianic King, reigning in heavenly glory. The scriptural passages that one would expect to hear would be perhaps the final triumph of Christ, the Word of God, the “King of kings and Lord of lords,” over all forces of evil (cf Revelation 19:11-15); or perhaps the Ascension, in which the exalted Christ was crowned with glory at the right hand of God (cf Mk 16:19).

Not quite. What we hear instead is a God whose greatest concern is his sheep, which are “scattered,” in need of “rest,” “strayed,” and “injured”; sheep that need to be shepherded rightly (see the 1st reading). Why are passages such as this the focus of the Christ the King celebration? What does shepherding have to do with Jesus’ kingship?

To God, a king should care about his people the way a shepherd cares about his flock: his duty is, first and foremost, to safeguard the well-being of the people that God entrusted to him. A king’s position of authority is given to him to serve and not to dictate, to give and not to receive, to empty himself (as Jesus did in emptying himself and sacrificing his life for us) and not to inflate. Unlike all the self-serving kings in history who misused the authority that God gave them for self-gratification, Jesus, the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16) will take care of his people like a Good Shepherd. For “the Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want” (Ps 23:1), chanted David, whose unique position as a shepherd king is already a prefiguration of Christ. No wonder in the Gospel reading, we are told that when the Son of Man comes in his glory, “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” (Mt 25:32).

This is a powerful message for everyone in a leadership position to reflect on. Kings and governors, clergy and church leaders, teachers and parents: Are you using your God-given authority and resources for the edification of the people entrusted to your care and not for your own self-gratification? Do you use your power to serve or to oppress? Are you good shepherds? Your honest answers to these questions may well determine where Jesus, the Shepherd King, will place you when he returns in his glory. You will either join the sheep on his right that go off to eternal life, or find yourselves among the goats on his left that are bound for eternal punishment (cf. Mt. 25:33,46).

As we conclude this reflection on Christ the King, let’s lift up our gaze to the Crucifix where Pilate’s inscription “INRI” (Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews), ominously displayed atop the Cross and strategically placed above the battered and bloodied body of the crucified Christ, reminds the world what a king truly looks like.



God the Judge … to Save

Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications, Macau

The gospel passage, today, is a judgment scene, a literary genre used both in the Bible (cf. Dan 7) and in the rabbinic literature. The aim of this literary genre is not to inform about what will happen at the end of the world, but to teach how to behave today.

If the passage is not read with the background of the literary technique used, we will end up finding a God who does not match the picture of the father that Jesus labored so hard to imprint upon his listeners. A God who ruthlessly condemns is a mismatch to the compassionate Lord who runs after the lost sheep. What message, then, the story offer us?

The message Jesus wants to convey is: the years of man’s life are precious, a treasure to be managed well. No one should go wrong because life is just one: Jesus suggests how one must live.

The values he suggests are not similar to those for which most men lose their heads, but they are what really count in the eyes of God.

Who is the ideal successful man in our society? The powerful, the rich, the affluent and the celebrities who are wanted by the TV cameras.

What is the thought of God? At the conclusion of the story of our life, when each is alone with himself and with God, only love will be precious. The life of each one will be considered a success or failure according to the commitment of the person in the elimination of six situations of suffering and poverty: hunger, thirst, exile, nakedness, sickness, and imprisonment.

A detail is carefully highlighted in the story: none of those who have done these works of mercy has realized of having done them to Christ.

Love is true only if it is disinterested, even if it is free of any suspicion of complacency; who acts in view of the reward, even that of heaven, does not yet genuinely love.

And the sentence pronounced indicates with strong images the very serious danger of wasting life. The judgment is to make us think, to open the eyes, to show God’s judgment on the decisions we make today.

Hell exists, but is not a place created by God to punish bad people at the end of life. It is a condition of unhappiness and despair resulting from sin. The question, therefore, is not who will be counted as sheep and goats at the end of the world, but in what occasions today we behave as sheep and behave as goats. We are sheep when we love our sisters and brothers; we are goats when we neglect them.

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