REMINDER: In place of our normal Credo discussion after Mass today (4:00pm) we will instead car pool over to St. Mary's to hear a special presentation on Byzantine Advent traditions by Fr. Deacon Matthew Hanes, a visiting Ukrainian Catholic deacon from the St. Basil the Great Greek-Catholic mission in Charlotte, from 5:30-6:30.
It is fitting that this great feast falls on the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, before we begin our Advent season of preparation in anticipation of the birth of a newborn King in Bethlehem. Jesus Christ was King of the Universe already at His humble birth, but very few recognized Him as such at the time. When Christ comes again in glory at the end of time, His authority will be universally recognized. All will live in the light of His reign.
Today in our gospel we are given a preview of that that day will be like (Mt 25:31-46). Jesus speaks of the Son of Man (one of His many titles) coming in glory and sitting upon His throne, with all the nations assembled before Him. We tend to think of kings and other powerful figures of basking in the limelight. But not in this case. Christ the King is the light, and He shines His light upon us. This is why so much attention is given in today's gospel reading not to Christ, but to you and I. We see all peoples from every nation, every last one of us, being judged. The King will separate us out, the sheep from the goats. The sheep will go to His right, into eternal life, while the goats will go to the left, into eternal punishment.
How will the King determine who is a sheep and who is a goat? He will judge us according to the love we have shown our neighbors during our lives -- specifically, the least of our neighbors. Have we clothed the naked? Have we fed the hungry? Have we visited the sick and those in prison? Have we ministered to their needs? For, as Christ tells us, whatever we do for the least of His people, thus we do (or do not do) for Him. We will be judged according to how we loved.
Most Christians know this gospel passage. It is a poignant reminder for us to love our neighbors. But why does the Church present it to us here, on the Solemnity of Christ the King? Shouldn't the readings be something about Christ's glory and might and power and divinity? Where is the triumph? Where is the kingship? This gospel reading seems to be more about us and how we ought to behave. And that is rather the point.
Pope Pius XI established this feast to combat secularism. Secularism is a way of life that leaves God out of man's thinking. The secular person organizes his or her life as if God did not exist. Christ makes no difference to his or her actions. Today's celebration reminds us that we cannot allow our lives to become secularized. We must always and everywhere remember that Jesus Christ always was, is now, and ever shall be King of all Creation. He is ruler over all, and that makes a difference as to how we live our lives.
Living our lives as subjects of Christ the King means ever striving to be a sheep in His flock (not a goat). Living in the light of Christ means seeing Jesus in the least of our brethren and treating them with the love that Christ has for them. It makes a difference in our behaviors and actions, in how we relate to others, each and every day.
We become different when we acknowledge Christ as our King. We treat others differently. We love differently. Today, let us renew our commitment to serving the King of the Universe, the King of us all.
A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who piously recite the Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King. A plenary indulgence is granted, if it is recited publicly on the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ King.Prayer:Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before you. We are yours, and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known you; many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to your Sacred Heart. Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to their Father's house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give tranquility of order to all nations; make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.Prayer Source: Enchiridion of Indulgences , June 29, 1968