Feast of Christ the King
On this weekend the Church concludes its liturgical year of 2011. Next week, a new year will begin with the First Sunday of Advent. This weekend it closes the year with an excited and fervent proclamation of Christ as the king of all.
The first reading comes from the ancient Book of Ezekiel. In this reading, God speaks in the first person, promising protection of the flock, in other words the people of God. He is the shepherd, seeking the lost, caring for the injured, rescuing the imperiled. Also, God will distinguish between the sheep and others who assume other identities because of their voluntary unfaithfulness.
St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians provides the second reading. This selection is a proclamation of the Resurrection, and of the role of the Lord as Redeemer of humankind. He is the Risen Lord, the first of those who will rise to everlasting life. Those who will follow Jesus in being raised from the dead are “those who belong” to Christ, in other words, those persons who have admitted God, through Jesus, into their lives, and who have received from the Lord the gift of grace, eternal life and strength.
The reading frankly admits that at work in the world are forces hostile to God. These forces cannot be dismissed as insignificant. However, they are by no means omnipotent. In and through Jesus, the power and life of God will endure. God will triumph over all evil. No one bound to God should fear the powers of evil, although all must resist these powers.
For its final reading on this great feast, the Church offers us a passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel. It is a glance forward, to the day when God’s glory will overwhelm the world, to the day when Jesus will return in majesty and glory.
This expectation was a favorite theme in the early Church, in the community that surrounded and prompted the formation of the Gospels.
The reading repeats the description given in Ezekiel. In Ezekiel, God, the shepherd, separates the sheep from the goats, the good from the unfaithful. In this reading from Matthew, Jesus promises a final judgment that will separate the faithful from the sinful.
Beautifully in this reading, the Lord defines who will be judged as faithful, and who will be seen as unfaithful. The faithful will not be those who only give lip service to their belief in God, but those who, in the model of Jesus, give themselves to bring relief and hope to others.
A popular motion picture of 2011, and a true story at that, was “The King’s Speech.” It is about Britain’s King George VI (1895-1952), on the throne from 1936 until his death, and his determined efforts to overcome a serious speech defect.
The king, and his wife, known to most people now as the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, were great figures as the British struggled against enormous odds in the Second World War.
At the height of the war, with German blitz, or bombing, relentless, and with great deprivation among the people, the rumor spread that the Royal Family, as well as the government, would flee the country.
One day, arriving on the scene of a horrendous bombing attack, Queen Elizabeth was confronted with the question of whether or not she and her husband would send their young daughters to Canada. Indeed, would she and the king flee?
The queen answered, “My daughters will not leave without me. I shall not leave without the king. And the king? The king will never, never leave you!”
For us Christians, our king will never, never leave us. He is with us now and will guide us to heaven.
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