Solemnity of Christ the King A
November 22, 2020
Matthew 25: 31-46
By Rev. John Tran
I have often thought about the meaning of today’s gospel from Matthew. It is one of the most radical and important communications that Jesus has to say to us. Remember the scene Jesus puts before us? At the last judgment, the flock is divided into two groups: the sheep on the right, and the goats on the left. The sheep are told, “Come you blessed of my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” This is because when they saw Jesus they gave him food, drink, welcomed him as stranger, clothed him, visited him in prison. And they ask him, when did we see you and do all of these things? And Jesus answers, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Then the goats were sent to eternal fire because the did not do these things for the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters.
We cannot help by realize that Jesus bases our salvation on how we treat the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Even if we live a blameless life in all other things and have not done this, salvation is not offered to us. That is a staggering statement. I am sure the so called goats felt the exact same surprise. Many of them probably did not think of themselves as “bad people;” but as having live a quite moral and virtuous life.
Apparently they did not see as God sees. Even if our daily lives do not put us in contact with people in the circumstances Jesus describes in this passage, we are aware of them. We certainly can have an impact on them in our prayers, our almsgiving, our political influence. And, too, there are those around us who are thirsty or hungry for companionship. There are those who need to be clothed in love and respect. There are those who are in the prison of their own making and have become strangers to most people around them.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. And it is very clear that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, that his kingdom does not operate the way kingdoms of this world do. The kingdom of Christ and his Father comes about when the powerless and homeless become valued and cherished. To live in this way goes against every fiber of our being. We thrive and flourish on power, being on top, being comfortable. What Christ the King is asking of each of us, is to put aside our natural inclination to put ourselves first, to make sure we are aware of our situation before thinking of those who seem not to deserve notice.
A story is told of a priest assigned in a seminary who took his sabbatical year in Kolkata, India to work with Mother Teresa. Towards the end of his sabbatical, he wondered what he could take back to his seminarians. Thinking back, he remembered how Mother Teresa received Holy Communion: her eyes and face glowed with love for Jesus as she expressed the desire to give him back her love completely. For the priest, that was understandable for she was then already known as ‘a living saint.’ But what he could not understand was what he saw one evening when she was with a sick person. The same glow in her eyes and face was present when she was attending to him. Reflecting on these two experiences, the priest discovered why. For Mother Teresa, that sick person was Jesus himself for did he not say: “Whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Do we see Jesus’ face in others, especially the poor, needy, marginalized, deprived, downtrodden, sick and suffering, and so on? Jesus meets us in their disguise. They are his true face.
The message of today's gospel to serve Christ in the poor and homeless is the last saying of Jesus concerning essential things necessary for salvation. Do you remember the others? God will forgive you in the same way as you for give others; and love the Lord your God with your whole heart, mind and soul, and your neighbor as yourself. These are the characteristics of the Kingdom of God and hopefully the characteristics of our lives. When we do these things we are worthy of the name of Christian, and worthy of God’s company.
Now, on this feast of Christ the King, how can we be worthy of Christ’s name and kingdom? How can we plan to do these things for the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters?