There are many names, titles and descriptions of God in the Bible, but in the readings of today’s liturgy we see Christ as King, Judge and Shepherd.
We all have some sense of what Kingship and Royalty mean. It is sovereignty over the kingdom, and of those who are subjects, offering allegiance and honour. Judge and King, both have powers with positive and negative aspects. Christ’s kingship is basically founded on union with the Father and the Spirit, and is manifested through his death on the cross, in which he offers salvation to all. It extends to all places, all people and all times, where the kingdom of justice, love and peace should be sought. We therefore give him sovereign power over our lives.
The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pius X1 in 1925 in response to the world rejecting Christ and dominated by secularism. Attempts were made to thrust Christ out of life, resulting in discord among people and nations. This feast is a way to recognise and favour Christ as King of Kings.
The Readings for this feast tell us that the Kingship of Christ is one of a caring master and shepherd who brings all together. In Ex 34, Ps 23 and the Gospel Mt 23, Christ is portrayed as King and judge, but Ezekiel has gentler image as does Ps 23, that of good Shepherd caring for the weak and wounded.
There are three qualities of a Shepherd:
To take time to listen; To offer protection and security;
and sacrificial actions taken by the shepherd.
Do we apply these in our lives? Do we hear the cries of the destitute, the poor, the weak, those wounded needing healing? Can we offer protection, assistance in any way? How often do we sacrifice our own time and pleasure to help others in need?
The Gospel identifies Jesus as Shepherd king, sitting in judgement separating sheep and goats.
The difference between the two groups is evident even today. Jesus as Shepherd searches for the sheep, rescues them from places where they have been scattered. He will bring life to all. Sheep in Scripture are those who care, show concern for others and are given the heritage, which is eternal life. The virtuous transform the suffering of people into joy, by deeds of kindness and bringing healing to human conditions. The goats are on the margin, seemingly indifferent and portray those leaders having exploited and neglected God’s people in exile, caring for themselves rather than God’s flock. They don’t provide for the vulnerable, show indifference to the suffering of others and are basically self-centred.
The Gospel teaches us to take to heart the works of mercy. The words of Mother Teresa come to mind, who says the worst disease today is the feeling of being unwanted and the greatest evil is lack of love. “The greatest need is to be wanted”. We’ve witnessed this in the accounts given by refugees during our gathering in July. When we see suffering of Christians in Ukraine, the people in Palestine and Israel, Sudan, Iran and bordering countries, we can allow discouragement to cloud our vision. This feast reminds us that the Kingdom belongs to the poor and humble, those neglected, and whose lives embrace the cross of suffering. We can help fill the void by building hope, the important virtue and gift of God which pushes us forward in our Christian life. If we lose hope we fall into despair, refusing to accept God’s healing mercy. But instead this feast encourages us to celebrate and live out our faith in bringing the Gospel to society, to be a servant of justice, so that all may bear witness to Christ before ‘others. By looking carefully at the teaching of the works of mercy in the Gospel, we can alleviate the dire need expressed by individuals around us.
When last did we see people hungry for appreciation, giving even a smile or words of praise, lifting them from their discomfort?. There are many thirsty for a sign of friendship, simple recognition and acknowledgement of their presence. There are those naked, lacking self confidence, self-esteem, needing to be understood. Some are depressed and wounded by failure, this is where we can give hope. Others are homeless, suffering from guilt feelings, wanting sympathy, understanding and respect. Have we thought of those needing treatment for drug addiction, for being abused, many suffering from mental health problems? Can we assist in providing funds for third world disasters?
By obeying Christ the King, and being submissive to His sovereign power over our lives, we become more aware of those around us, serve others before ourselves, provide basic needs for those in our surrounding community. We can be more sensitive to their needs, giving of self, time, energy, love and thus receive the message of Matthew’s Gospel trying to build the Kingdom of God by heartfelt works of mercy in our time.
Cynthia Thompson, OP