This week's homily: 26th November 2023 – Thirty-Fourth
Sunday Ordinary – Christ the King - Year A
Christ the King
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17;
Psalm 23 (22): 1-6;
I Corinthians 15:20-26, 28;
“Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, Could not put Humpty-Dumpty together again.”
We live in a Humpty-Dumpty world, a broken world. The latest outbreaks of disease and war are only symptomatic of what we already are. “All the king’s men” – the kings of science, technology, politics, and even religion – could not put Humpty-Dumpty together again. We are broken and we need a mender, a saviour. Our world needs a liberator. This world of ours needs to be redeemed.
Jesus died on a cross. But on Easter night we dared to proclaim that his story is not yet over and that he will come again to judge the living and the dead. In today’s gospel he who avoided authority and prestige during his life on Earth, emerges from the skies, surrounded by angels, seated on a throne.
All are judged on this central criterion coming from humanity’s ancestral depths: “What have you done to your brother?” (Genesis 4: 9). Note that Christ slightly changes the formula and asks, “What did you do to me?” Christ does not say, “Your brother was hungry and you gave him to eat” but rather, “I was hungry and you gave me food” (Matthew 25:36). “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
Jesus did not want to be king (John 15:6; but see also Luke 19:38-40). To the Roman Governor he said that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).
Today, on the feast of Christ the King, the gospel presents to us Christ the Beggar.
He says, “I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was naked, I was a stranger, I was in prison, and you visited me.” (1)
We learn that God was so much in solidarity with His creatures that He had taken the place of the stranger, the beggar and the prisoner, that is, God had espoused the cause of the downtrodden and the marginalized. God had carried a cross in his heart. With God so much with us, and in us, we all become anointed with God’s Spirit.
God is committed to His people. Thus gets established the royal dignity of each human being: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9-10).
The righteous are surprised to learn that in serving their brothers and sisters they were serving the Christ. That is only normal since many of them had not even known who he was. They ask him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison and we visited you?” And he answers, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40) (2).
If one day we deserve to enter into paradise it will not be because we would have never sinned, but because, through our charity and our service of others, we will have atoned for our sins. Between us and our judgement will rise the cross of Christ that we will have carried in our hearts. Saint James tells us: “Judgement will be without mercy to him who has shown no mercy, but mercy triumphs over judgement” (James 2:13; See Matthew 6:14-15; 18:35).
Those of us who visit the sick, the lonely, the prisoner or those confined to their rooms, visit Jesus. Those of us who extend their hands to welcome someone who is a stranger, who is different from us or who feels lost, extend their hands to Jesus.
Those of us who try to understand why there is still hunger, thirst, disease and poverty in the world, and what are the barriers to be pulled down and the bridges to be built and the hurdles to be won over, already build the Kingdom of God with Christ. Amen
(1) This text has been considered one of the most daring expressions in religious- history. You cannot see God. And so you can have all sorts of illusions about Him and give in to all sorts of interpretations. The neighbour is someone you can see, touch and speak to. You can give him water, you can clothe him, you can visit and comfort him. In him you can but concretely serve the Lord.
(2) Note that in this episode Jesus reaches beyond the boundaries of the Church, because here we have a mixed group of Christians and non-Christians. If this group was made up only of Christians or members of the Church, they would have known that in helping the poor it is Christ that they were helping. But these people come from every sphere of human society. They are unaware that they served the Christ in others. Belonging to the Church may constitute supernatural grace, but it is not the criterion for judgement in this episode. It is rather the acceptance of others, and charity and service that give the right to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
According to Fr. Grimm, Matthew is speaking here of the judgement of non-Christians. They are the ones who serve Christ in others without knowing him. In fact, who are these littlest ones that they serve? In Matthew’s gospel, the little ones has a very specific meaning. “Whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of water because he is a disciple, shall not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42). The little ones are the Christians, the followers of Jesus. Therefore, we must be such followers of the crucified Lord, that they will respond to us as the bystander at the crucifixion did, who tried to give Jesus something to drink. (William Grimm, Homily for the last Sunday of the Year A, UCA News, Philippines, November 20,2020).
Tiburtius Fernandez SMA, © Treasures of The Word, Homilies for Year A, St.
Paul's, Bandra, Bombay, India, 2022, pp. 278-281.