November 20, 2011 — Solemnity of our Lord Jesus, Christ the King
Today, we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Yet, the first reading and the Responsorial Psalm present God as a shepherd who cares for His sheep, and in the Gospel, Jesus Himself speaks of the final judgment using the language of a shepherd. “He will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,” He says. The humble shepherd and the regal king do not have much in common. In fact, they are seemingly opposite personas, and yet, the scriptures tell us that in God, they are one and the same.
He is King of the world, and, at the very same time, He is a shepherd who cares for His flock. His kingship is unlike any other. He is the King enthroned in majesty who reigns above us all, but He is a King who so cares for us that, as a shepherd searches for one lost sheep, He calls each one of us to Himself, giving us a share in His life.
The first reading focuses on the Lord’s caring nature.
“I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. I myself will give them rest.”
And the Responsorial Psalm reiterates those same sentiments, praising the Lord for His incredible generosity. He gives us all we need and more, again, like a shepherd who cares for His sheep.
Meanwhile, in all three of the readings, there is an eschatological element. Each one, in varying degrees, speaks to us of the second coming and the final judgment that will take place when the Lord does return in glory.
The first reading concludes: “’As for you, my sheep,’ says the Lord God, ‘I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.’”
In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul tells us, “then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to His God and Father, when He has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.”
And in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus Himself speaks of the final judgment when He will separate one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats at the end of the day.
The ones on His right He will welcome into His kingdom, saying, “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. … Whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
The Lord is our shepherd. He has given us all we could ever need and, in fact, even more, and He cares for us every minute of every day, pouring out His grace and calling us to Himself. It is, therefore, our responsibility as His disciples to use what He has given us wisely, to recognize that our lives are gifts from God and to spend them giving glory to He who is our King. We all have time, talents and treasure, and we are called to use those gifts to the best of our ability, not squandering them, but taking ownership of them and making the master proud.
Then when we reach our judgment day, we will be with those on the right, and with the words, “Come, you are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” we will be ushered into the heavenly kingdom.
It is a tremendous reward, one whose greatness we cannot fathom, and, when we recognize that Christ the King is like a caring attentive shepherd who does not leave us to live life alone here and now but shepherds us and tends to us and assists us on our way, it is clear. We are extremely blessed.