Feast of Christ, King of the Universe – 22 November 2020
Lectionary Readings: Ezek. 34:11-12, 15-17; Ps. 23:1-2a, 2b-3, 5-6 (1); 1 Cor. 15:20-26, 28; Mt. 25:31-46
Theme: The Call of Christ the King
This Sunday’s Gospel, the last of the series of Jesus’ eschatological teachings in Matthew, invites us to open our hearts anew to radical discipleship. Commentators situate this Gospel text against the backdrop of Matthew’s Jesus who was often seen and heard challenging those who would follow him to “take on a radical existence on the margins radically serving the marginalized.” While the setting is apocalyptic, the account is not an “anticipatory reportage of later occurring events” but a looking ahead to the consummation of time by deciding in spiritual freedom, here and now, to orient one’s life to the values of The Kingdom.
The text begins with the gathering of nations, and the Son of Man sitting on a throne coming in glory. It concludes in assigning people either to eternal punishment or to eternal life. Midway, the King lays down the standard of His reign which is also the criterion for entry into eternal life: a deep concern for and compassionate service of the least, last, lost, and lonely. Interestingly, the King identifies himself with the least. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (v. 40).Serving or failing to serve the least is serving or failing to serve Christ Himself. We find an echo of this in the story of Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4)
It is consoling to know that the King to whom we all must give an account of our lives at the end time is not a fierce, exacting, demanding Sovereign ruler. As Ezekiel and Psalm 23 beautifully describe him, the Son of Man is a tender and compassionate shepherd, who brings his flock to verdant pastures; who gathers the lambs in his arms and carefully holds them close to his heart. The shepherd seeks for and rescues the lost; heals their wounds and saves them.
However, radically responding to the Call of the King can be challenging. We are not as consistent as we ought to be. We know full well that our personal and collective shadows often get in the way. We know too, that the world has subtle ways to distract us from the vision of God’s kingdom. But our King, who trusts us, will always summon and draw out our capacity to love the least. It is this same trust that brought Peter back to recommit himself despite his denial of his Lord. “Do you love me? Jesus humbly asked. “Take care of my sheep.” (Jn 21:15-19) Now, more than ever before, it is time we give the King of kings our love and the full reign of our lives.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. In this difficult time for us and our planet, what does responding to the call of Christ the King mean for us individually and collectively, as a faith community? 2. How do we advance the cause of the least, the lost, the last, and the lonely such that they find a space in our homes, churches, public and political squares?
Bibliography: Ulrich Luz, “The Final Judgment (Matt 25:31-46): An Exercise in ‘History of Influence’ Exegesis,” in Treasures New and Old: Recent Contributions to Matthean Studies, ed. David R. Bauer and Mark Allan Powell, Symposium Series no. 1 (Atlanta, Ga: Scholars Press, 1996), 274–275; Kangas, Billy, “Who are the Least in the Kingdom of God? The Orant, 23 Nov 2014
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Shela Mae Jaso, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumna 2017