The American comedian and satirist, Stephen Colbert, who is unashamedly Catholic, has said, “If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”
“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.”
The Solemnity of Christ the King that we celebrate today has nothing to do with royalty and everything to do with reality: the reality that God wants to restore to earth. God’s reality is called the Kingdom of God. As we shall hear in the preface of the Mass today it is a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.
Christ came to establish the new reality, the Kingdom of God. Christians acclaim him Messiah and Lord. But the true leader of the new reality, God’s Messiah, is not an autocrat nor a xenophobic. Rather than being a person who struts across the world stage, angrily responding to anyone who questions his authority, God’s king is a Shepherd. The Prophet Ezekiel promises that the king of God’s new reality will show God’s care and love in a way that mirrors a devoted shepherd cares for his flock: he will search out the lost, gather the scattered, lead the lost safely to pasture, and bring them to rest. He will bandage the wounded, heal the sick, and even give his life for them.
This is exactly how Jesus brought about his kingdom. He did so through his closeness and tenderness towards us. He is truly, as the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews says, the “great Shepherd of the sheep and the protector of our souls.”
But, we ask, where is the Kingdom of God today? Where does the banner of Jesus the Good Shepherd fly over the world? The Apostle Paul, in the second reading tells us: “(Christ) must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” The Father, little by little, subjects all to the Son and, at the same time, the Son subjects all to the Father. “Paso a paso,” as our Hispanic sisters and brothers like to say, “Paso a paso”, little by little, step by step Christ is moving forward.
Jesus is not a King according to earthly ways: he does not lead armies, he does not wage war. For Christ the King, the Good Shepherd, to reign is not to command, but, as St. Paul tells us, to obey the Father in everything, so that God’s plan of love and salvation may be brought to fulfilment. The period of Christ’s reign is the long and arduous work of relentless love. Until Love wins, all things are under the sovereignty of Jesus. And when Love finally wins, everything including Jesus himself will be subjected to the Father, God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28). The Love of God will fill the universe in all its part. Everything will reflect Christ.
The Gospel for today’s feast teaches what Jesus’ kingdom requires of us: it reminds us that closeness and tenderness are the rule of life for us also, and that on this basis we will be judged. This is the great parable of the final judgement in Matthew 25. The King says: “Come, O blessed of 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, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you visited me” (25:34-36). The righteous will ask him: when did we do all this? And he will answer them: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt25:40).
It is not enough to just say, “Jesus is Lord” and throw a little confetti. We must first show that we are citizens of his country by imitating his works of mercy. We must show that we have welcomed Christ’s sovereignty, by the way we have opened our hearts to God’s charity. As Pope Francis has told us, “In the twilight of life we will be judged on our love for, closeness to and tenderness towards our brothers and sisters. Upon this will depend our entry into, or exclusion from, the kingdom of God: our belonging to the one side or the other.”
Thank you for the food gifts you have brought for the poor. Thank you for taking Angel Tree tags. Thank you for your contribution to the United Catholic Appeal. Thank you for the many ways you support our ministries. “Paso a paso”, step by step the banner of Jesus is going forward because of your love.