November 19, 2017

Reflection for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, November 26, 2017, Year A

Christ the King

Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Exodus 34:11-12, 15-17; Psalm 23; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; 
Matthew 25:31-46

"Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least
brethren of mine, you did for me." (Mt 25:40)

This feast of Christ the King is a paradox. Here is the King of kings who associates with tax collectors, the sick, and the outcast. Here is the Lord of lords whose primary mission was to conquer all sin, suffering, and death. Here is the monarch who died the death of a common criminal. And here is the king who taught his subjects—you and me—to be sure we are taking care of the poor, homeless, hungry, thirsty, naked, and estranged. Why should we share our resources with anyone in these groups? Because this King lives in them. Instead of inhabiting a castle filled with riches, this King chooses to live in the hearts and souls of the poor, oppressed, and those who cry out in suffering. God does things differently than humans do.

The Gospel for this weekend is the familiar Parable of the Last Judgment. In this story, the people are separated as sheep from goats. The Judge places on his right those worthy of entering the kingdom of God. They have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and the imprisoned, sheltered the homeless, and given drink to the thirsty. They will go off to eternal salvation. The goats on the other hand did not take care of anyone in these groups and thus will go off to eternal punishment. Obviously, the judge in the story is Jesus. You and I will be either sheep or goats. We hope to be sheep. In fulfilling the basic needs of any of these people we are doing it for Jesus himself. He identifies with the poor and the suffering.

The human person ought to take great solace and comfort in this truth of the Christian faith. In the poor, it is Jesus himself who seeks food, drink, clothing, shelter, and friendship. What good news! So when you or I hunger, thirst, or seek clothing, shelter, or friendship, the Lord identifies with us. Maybe you have experienced the lack of basic human needs. Quite possibly your hunger or thirst goes beyond physical needs into the realm of spiritual or emotional hunger and thirst. Most people feel lost, abandoned, or hungry at some point in life. It is great comfort to know that in these low moments the Lord identifies and sees himself in the person. Many people suffer from depression and loneliness; it is in these moments that people can experience the nearness of a caring God.

Seeing this parable from this angle helps the disciple of Jesus to consider his or her own generosity in reaching out to others in love and support. If Jesus is with me in my suffering, hunger, and thirst, and I have felt his presence, then I need to be of help to others who are in the same predicament. Hopefully this is the motive of human generosity. Empathy with the hungry, lonely, and imprisoned is felt because at some point everyone has been there either physically or in some analogical way. It works like this: if Jesus is in the midst of suffering, and I have felt his presence in my hunger and thirst, then I am motivated to reach out to others in generosity when they are in similar situations, knowing that I am tending Christ himself in the poor.

The Parable of the Last Judgment inspires all of the followers of Jesus to be generous. The formula is not complicated. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Visit the sick and imprisoned. In doing so, not only are aid and comfort brought to the suffering, but Jesus himself is served. This King of kings reigns by identifying with the poor and suffering. Thank God! In reigning among the hungry and homeless he reigns within the hearts of all who suffer, your heart and mine.

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