Christ the King
This weekend closes the Church’s liturgical year of 2014. Next week, a new year will begin with the First Sunday of Advent. Closing the year means that the Church has led us through 12 months of careful instruction about Jesus.
The feast of Christ the King joyfully summarizes the lessons of the past year. The Lord is king! He reigns! He lives!
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 looks ahead, 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 care for the troubled and the distressed, who bring relief and hope to others.
Sixty years ago, the parents of the current British monarch enjoyed the people’s highest esteem because of their uncompromising commitment to the wellbeing of the nation.
At the height of the German blitz, or bombing, of London and other major cities in the United Kingdom, the rumor spread that the royal family, as well as the government, would desert the country.
One day, arriving on the scene of a horrendous bombing attack, Queen Elizabeth, the wife of King George VI, and mother of Elizabeth II, was asked if she and her husband would send their young daughters to Canada for their safety. Moreover, would she and the king follow them?
Elizabeth, better known later as the Queen Mother, answered, “My daughters will not leave without me. I shall not leave without the king. And the king? The king will never, ever leave you!”
If we are Christians truly, come what may, Christ the King will never, ever leave us. He protects us. He will bring us to the glory of heaven after the wars of earth are ended.
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