February 25, 2018, 9:48 am
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Proclaim Christ, our King of Mercy

JESUS said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘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, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

***

Today’s feast, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is the crown of the liturgical year; next Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, begins a new liturgical year. Today we read Saint Matthew’s dramatic description of the Last Judgment. This is the only Gospel description of that final Judgment. Here we find the “standard” or “criterion” of judgment: Have we shown mercy to Christ in the way we have treated him in the “little ones” of society?

Matthew’s Gospel teaches us what Jesus requires: mercy, tenderness, and compassion are the rule of life for us. It is on this basis that we will be judged. We know Jesus’ words so well: “As often as you did it for one of my least brethren, you did it for me.”

Challenge of Pope Francis. Speaking at the Manila Cathedral on 2015, the Pope emphasized the challenge to serve the poor and needy, “those living in the midst of a society burdened by poverty and corruption, tempted to give up.” Francis asserted that a true Christian (anyone who accepts Christ as King) faces the “challenge of proclaiming the radicalism of the Gospel in a society that has grown comfortable with social exclusion, polarization, and scandalous inequality.” 

We must remember, the Pope continued, that “the poor are at the center of the Gospel, are at the heart of the Gospel; if we take away the poor from the Gospel, we cannot understand the whole message of Jesus Christ.” In short, “all of us are asked to obey [Jesus’] call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium, n. 20).

Jesus’ Parable. The great parable of the final judgment asserts that the foundation of our salvation is not simply asserting Christ’s sovereignty, but “the imitation of Jesus’ works of mercy through which he brought about his Kingdom. The one who accomplishes these works shows that he has welcomed Christ’s sovereignty, because he has opened his heart to God’s charity…. We will be judged on our love for, closeness to, and tenderness towards our brothers and sisters” (Homily of Pope Francis on 23 November 2014).

The “last judgment” parable provides the basis for what catechesis has called the corporal works of mercy [e.g. serving the hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, sick, dying, etc.]. It reminds us that love of neighbor must be embodied in practical acts of kindness and assistance extended to the needy—if it is to be considered real in the eyes of God.

Jesus invites—even demands—that we join him in working for his Kingdom, which is described in the Preface for today’s Feast of Christ the King as “an eternal and universal kingdom, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.” 

Two Inspiring Quotes. In following Christ our Servant-King, we can draw inspiration from two writers. Corrie Ten Boom narrates: “A visitor saw a nurse attend the sores of a leprosy patient. ‘I would not do that for a million dollars,’ she said. The nurse answered, ‘Neither would I, but for Jesus, I do it for nothing.’” 

John Wesley has written: “Do all the good you can; by all the means you can; in all the ways you can; in all the places you can; at all the times you can; to all the people you can; as long as ever you can.”

Friends, let us rejoice that Jesus is our King of Mercy, and that we are servants of Christ the Merciful King! 

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– Fr. James H. Kroeger, MM
– (Nov. 26, 2017)
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