As we join the Universal Church in acclaiming Christ as our Savior and Eternal King, we turn to the word of God, to learn what sort of King we have, and how best to serve and honor him.
We are created by God, and all that we do, if it is to be considered good, must be for his glory. When we do things in accord with his will, our works are meritorious. Even if they seem small, they are worthy of our King’s divine and royal dignity. Otherwise, they hold nothing of real value in his eyes. Jesus says to St. Faustina, “The greatest works are worthless in My eyes if they are done out of self-will, and often they are not in accord with My will, and merit punishment rather than reward” (Divine Mercy, #639).
Much worse is when we neglect the poor or take advantage of them by exploiting their situation. This behavior among the shepherds of Israel was condemned by God through the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading. These shepherds failed to provide food and protection for their flock, allowing them to be scattered, or even driven from their homeland into exile. God announced a tremendous change: “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” As their good shepherd he will gather, care for, protect, and feed everyone, while the “sleek and strong” he will humble. He will deal severely with those whom he has given the responsibility to take care of his flock but who instead took advantage of the sheep.
Who are the shepherds in our time? We are. We have responsibility in various capacities as parents, ministers, public authorities, servants, teachers, etc. In today’s gospel Jesus teaches us that we shall be called to account at the end of time. He will deal with us according to our deeds. Do we put into practice what he has commanded us to do? Have we loved our neighbor as ourselves? What does love of neighbor consist of? Jesus refers to six corporal works of mercy: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me, in prison and you came to visit me.” (In the Catholic tradition, the seventh corporal work of mercy is to bury the dead.) Jesus lets us know that he is present in our neighbor. “I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me.”
We treat Christ our King in exactly the same way as we treat our least brother and even our worst enemy. Whatever we do to the least of our brothers we do to him. Jesus identifies himself with his disciples who are neglected, abandoned, and unsupported even by their own. He is also among the poor in various degrees of hunger and deprivation – physical, emotional, social, psychological, and spiritual. We may have dutifully observed the norms and prescriptions of our faith, yet “faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas 2:17). Thus whatever we do to others we also do in a sense to ourselves. For by our own actions we choose either salvation or condemnation. Jesus says elsewhere, “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I am not the one to condemn him; for I have come, not to condemn the world, but to save the world (Jn 12:47).”
At the end of time, Christ will come as King to reign over all. St. Paul affirms that in the end Christ “when, after having destroyed every sovereignty, authority, and power, will hand over the kingdom to God the Father. Christ must reign until God has put all enemies under his feet, and the last enemy to be destroyed is death. When, finally, all has been subjected to the Son, he will then subject himself to the One who made all things subject to him, so that God may be all in all.”
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, places a decision before us. He will come as King; will we welcome his reign? We can disregard his voice and be counted among the goats, only to hear: “Out of my sight, you condemned, into that everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels!” Or we can freely and joyfully follow the Shepherd’s call and be counted among his sheep. We are being invited to participate in the reign of Christ the King. “You have my Father’s blessing! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.”
What is my response to the poor? Am I willing to apply the corporal works of mercy in my daily life? Do I welcome the reign of Christ into my heart?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 13, no. 8. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.