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Christ the King (A)
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Readings for the Day of Christ the King (closing of the church year), Cycle A

1. Ezekiel 34, 11-12 and 15-17
  • Our God is engaged with the creation and especially with the men and women made after the divine image.  I myself will look after and tend my sheep.  As I listen I recall how rare it was for the owners of sheep to tend them directly.
  • The prophet says shepherd and describes the actions of a shepherd.  When I say it I also mean caregiver, rescuer, guardian.
  • The words of action wash through the reading like soothing ocean waves: look after and tend, rescue, seek out, bring back, pasture and give them rest. 
  • I also hear the concern of the shepherd for the sheep that have scattered.  I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered.  The lost I will seek out.  We have heard this before in the Gospels, and it is assuring to affirm it once again.  It reminds us Catholics that the God of Moses and the prophets is one and the same as the God of Jesus.
  • The church has added the following verse that looks ahead to the Gospel for today.  I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.  My purpose in reading it is to affirm the bridge, without denying or obliterating everything the prophet has just said about God’s care for the entire people.
  • Central point: The personal care of God for the creatures of the earth, and especially for the Israel of the covenant.
  • Message for our assembly: The world is not an impersonal place, cloudy and dark, in which the dangers around us will finally prevail.  God destines us for good, rich pastures.
  • I will challenge myself: to imitate the warm and decisive promise God makes to the beloved people.

 

2. I Corinthians 15, 20-26 and 28

  • As I listen to the reading I am overwhelmed by unfamiliar images and terms.  Perhaps I can make sense of each sentence on its own, but the flow of one thought into another loses me at the halfway point.  That is why I will need to rehearse and hear it a dozen times or more.
  • Why do we hear this passage on Christ the King Day?  The image of king goes back to the inscription on the cross of Jesus: “king of the Jews.”  It goes back to our profession of faith in Jesus: Christ has been raised from the dead. 
  • But our faith is inclusive; we are full players.  In Christ shall all be brought to life.  He is the forerunner, the firstfruits.  And we belong to Christ.
  • Our king does not participate in that elite sovereignty, authority, power that we identify with royalty.  Death and the power to put to death are not his allies but his enemies, the last enemy to be destroyed.
  • He hands over the kingdom to his God and Father.  We may think of territorial limits, because the idea of kingdom means little more than geography today.  The original understanding of kingdom was that it was personified by, and even belonged to, the king.  I hear that idea repeated in the psalms.  That is what it means here: Everything is subjected to him. 
  • Central point: In Christ we shall be transformed into a kingdom where God will be all in all.
  • The message for our assembly: We are being taken up into a reality greater than we can imagine.  Jesus takes us there.
  • I will challenge myself: To engage the ancient images of God’s sovereignty, giving a personal testimony in my reading rather than a detached account of the last days.

 

Gospel. Matthew 25, 31-46

  • I am hearing the climactic parable of the Kingdom, in which we attend upon the king himself.  When the Son of Man comes in his glory, he will sit upon his glorious throne.  It is a universal parable: All the nations will be assembled before him.  This is a time for my most expansive and decisive voice.
  • Once again Matthew tells me of separation one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  In my words today Christ is the judge, Christ is the measure.
  • And I learn more plainly than ever the ground rules of the kingdom.  Christ has become one of the least brothers and sisters.  He is not embedded with them!  He is one of them! 
  • I will focus on the personal pronoun, ringing out the instructions for finding him: I was hungry, I was a stranger, I was naked, I was ill and in prison.  And our way to union with Christ is simple enough.  You gave me food, you gave me drink, you welcomed me, you clothed me, you cared for me, you visited me.  I will not rush through these marks of those who know Christ.
  • The second half of the parable reveals the command to the accursed to depart into the eternal fire.  My mind’s eye, and those of many Catholics, return to the judgment scene in the Sistine Chapel that reflects the medieval view of Jesus coming to judge us.  But which Jesus do we really meet here?  Listen: in both parts of the parable he identifies himself as one of these least ones.  He is just as he was before.  We are the ones who respond or fail to respond, and so we are our own judges.
  • Climax: Really two today.  Whatever you did (did not do) for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did (did not do) for me.
  • Message for our assembly: Here are the places where we will find Jesus today.  Let us run to him.
  • I will challenge myself: To use my warmest words to invite my listeners: Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom.

Word to Eucharist: Does Christ drive us outward to our brothers and sisters in need?  Some are right here and many are in other places.

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