Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
The Solemnity of Christ the King concludes the liturgical year with the assertion that, despite the ominous end-of-time imagery featured in the preceding weeks, God is the ultimate power in the universe.
What does this power look like?
Today’s readings offer two views. First, in Ezekiel, God is presented as a compassionate shepherd. Jesus found this image a perfect description of God. Shepherds were the lowliest of peasants, hired to wander with the flocks in search of pasture. Jesus’ parable of the good shepherd is less about power than vulnerability and extravagant love. His shepherd leaves the whole flock to find a single lost sheep. His shepherd will offer his life for the sheep. What sensible person would do either?
Matthew tells us where to find the Jesus. The Lord of the Universe has disappeared among the hungry, thirsty, naked, lost, sick, imprisoned, alien and persecuted of this world. Our King is hiding in the least of our brothers and sisters. The one power he exhibits is to move our hearts to compassion. His very poverty invites us to exercise the power we share with God as his image and likeness — the power to love. This is the essence of our royal priesthood, the power to sacrifice ourselves for others. This is how we honor and imitate our King.
(Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 15-17)
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.
(Psalm 23: 1-2, 2-3, 5-6)
(I Corinthians 15: 20-26, 28)
Brothers and sisters:
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits 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 first fruits;
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.
(Matthew 25: 31-46)
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.”