Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. It is also the last Sunday of the Church year, and next week we begin the season of Advent. Let us remind ourselves that all of our celebrations are summed up in one statement: “Jesus is our King.” Jesus is the one we serve. If we do not know how to serve our King, not to worry, for today Jesus reveals to us what is necessary to secure the Kingdom of heaven.
In 1925, Pope Pius XI instituted “Christ the King” as a feast day. It was a bold move on his part. He was certainly guided by the Spirit. During this time, the world was experiencing a growing secularism and a misguided sense of nationalism. It was the year that Adolph Hitler published his biography of hatred, “Mien Kampf.” Benito Mussolini became dictator of Italy. People were moving away from a healthy reliance on God and trusting only in themselves, living only in the “here and now.” Much like today. Pope Pius said that “the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives” – “nations will be reminded, by the annual celebration of this feast, Christ the King, that not only private individuals, but also rulers and princes are bound to give PUBLIC honor and Obedience to Christ.” Now that was a strong statement. Pius was not afraid to preach the truth - the truth that is as relevant today as it was then.
If we believe that Jesus Christ is our King - What are the implications of that reality? What is our relationship to the King? Aristotle tells us, “The king ought to be to his people as a shepherd to his sheep or a father to his children.” So we are the Kings children whom he loves. Our reading today from Ezekiel says that we are a scattered people, like a flock of sheep that is lost, strayed and injured. Our benevolent King looks for us when we are lost. He carries us home and heals our infirmities. Our King is loving and kind. As a child who embraces a parent after being given a gift, how shall we respond to our King’s royal acts of love?
As Hamlet once said, “That is the question.”
The key is in the scriptures. And it isn’t hidden; it is laid out for all to see. Jesus wants it to be clear, because he loves us, he thirsts for us, and he wants to enter our hearts.
Jesus’ message today may be the most important in all of scripture.
“What you have done to the least of my brothers, you have done to me.”
We are called to recognize the presence of Jesus in others. Our recognition is manifested by our acts of love. We must recognize Jesus in our families, in the poor, in the poorest of the poor, the children dying in Somalia, the confused and rejected young mother, the unborn, the terminally ill, the immigrant, those who love us and those who despise us – and most importantly, recognizing Jesus in the Eucharist. This is the key to heaven.
Now Jesus knows that we humans find it hard to understand. In his great wisdom, he raises up saints in every age to be leaven in the world. By emulating those who have embraced the gospel message, we too can become saints.
Perhaps the foremost authority on today’s gospel is Blessed Mother Teresa who said that at the end of our lives, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we received or how much money we have made – we will be judged by “I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.”
St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a recently canonized saint, a woman of OUR time, was a physician, a working mom, and a loving wife. St. Gianna made a heroic choice when she refused an abortion when she was pregnant with her fourth child. She knew she had a cancerous tumor, and that continuing with her pregnancy would likely result in her death. Gianna was quite clear about her wishes, expressing to her family, "This time it will be a difficult delivery, and they may have to save one or the other -- I want them to save my baby.” Gianna recognized the presence of Christ her unborn child. Her child is now a Pediatrician.
There are also living saints right here in our own parish who we can emulate. They embrace the words of Jesus by their involvement in ministries that directly affect the lives of others – for example, the Shawl ministry, an inspiring movement of people who gather to pray and knit for those in need. And just last week, women who are members of the Cornerstone alumni, cooked for and fed more than 150 hungry souls in Mother Teresa’s soup kitchen in Newark. Those who work as ushers, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, those who distribute the bulletins and set up for Holy Mass - they all recognize the presence of Christ in the community, and serve each other with great acts of love.
This is all the Lord asks – that we “Love one Another.”
Pope Benedict XVI says that “Christ’s Kingship is not based on “human power” but on loving and serving others.”
On this solemnity of Christ the King, let us ask ourselves – do we see the presence of Christ in others? Do we manifest this reality by actions of Love? If our answer is no, let us begin today. For when our King comes to separate the sheep from the goats, we want to be in that line, waiting to hear the King’s words… ‘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.”
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