Christ the King (2014)
By Fr. Leroy Clementich, CSC
When you first heard of the Feast of Christ the King at Mass in your parish, you may well have had several questions that came to mind, as I once did, before searching more carefully in the scriptures for this interesting solemnity.
First of all, it may have occurred to you that the title seems rather strange in an age when kings, happily, are in short supply. Moreover kings, queens and kingship have had a rather long and questionable history as keepers of justice and peace. So, with that dubious record why would the church wish to create a feast in honor of Jesus Christ as King? Indeed Jesus never much liked the title king and often refused the symbolic crown when his disciples claimed it for him. He always insisted that his kingdom was not of this world. Indeed, Jesus embraced poverty, not wealth. He taught humility not arrogance. He emphasized service and not domination. He chose a cross not a palace for his throne room
So, if the essence of this feast is not about kings and kingship, what is all about? A cursory glance at the three scriptures for the day will quickly tell us that it is all about stewardship and shepherding. The word shepherd appears over and over in the texts of the Mass. In the text from the prophet Ezekiel, for instance, the author takes issue with the long history of irresponsible kings in Israel. He promises that in days to come God will send a shepherd-king who will see to it that justice is done for the poor and the downtrodden.
Following upon that, the twenty-fifth chapter of Saint Matthew’s gospel contains one of the most thoughtful and oft-quoted passages in the entire New Testament. It is the last judgment scene where Jesus predicts that on his his final return he will separate the righteous from the unrighteous. His judgment will be based on such questions as these: were the poor fed, prisoners freed, the thirsty offered water, the naked clothed, the stranger welcomed the ill cared for? In short the final judgment will be based on social justice, period.
So, the question arises once again: what does shepherding require of us in our day and age? Angie O’Gorman, a writer in St. Louis sums it up splendidly using the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “God will see to it that justice is served for the least, the last and the lost.”
Who then are the last, the least and the lost in our contemporary age? They may well be the children fleeing violence in Honduras or Guatemala or El Salvador. They may well be the families in Detroit who have had their water shut off for lack of payment; they may well be the people in West Africa suffering from the spread of the Ebola virus. In terms of the judgment gospel, it will be those who stand up and do whatever they can to alleviate such injustices; they will be judged righteous when the Prince of Shepherds, the Lord Jesus Christ returns.
It may well be said therefore that in any age and in our age in particular there is continuing need for good shepherding, not only at the highest level of government and church but at the level where each of us ordinary people work and live each day.
Finally, what is required of Christians is simply that they be Christian in the model of Christ. Not too much to ask in an age when truly good shepherds seem in short supply.
The scriptures: Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 15-17 • 1 Corinthians 15: 20-26, 28 • Matthew 25: 31-46
USCCB Bible Daily Readings: The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe