November 26, 2023 — The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
EZ 34:11-12, 15-17; PS 23:1-3, 5-6; 1 COR 15:20-26, 28; MT 25:31-46
Today we come to the end of the liturgical year, celebrating the magnificent feast of the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Our readings provide contrasting images of this King of ours — He has authority over all, and yet, He is humble and tender in His care for us, especially the most vulnerable. How can we properly honor and love such a King? By offering Him our very lives through the stewardship way of life.
Our First Reading, from Ezekiel, describes our Lord as a tender shepherd who knows his flock intimately and actively seeks to heal and save us. “Thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep… I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest… The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.” Such love is impossible to fully comprehend. All we can do is marvel at the greatness of our God and resolve to thank Him by giving Him the very best of ourselves — our time, our talents, our treasure — and by imitating His love as best we can.
The Second Reading demonstrates that humble as He is, Jesus Christ is indeed King of all, having authority over all, both individuals and nations, both the material world and the spiritual world. He will restore all things and all people to proper order “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. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” As intimately as we are called to love our King, so too, must we revere and respect His authority over us. We must be ever mindful that everything we have, every breath we take, is a gift from this all-powerful King. In justice, then, we must give Him His due.
What is it that He expects from us? The Gospel passage from Matthew shows us. The passage begins with Christ’s own description of His Second Coming, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.” Then the moment of judgment will come. Some will be invited into the Kingdom of Heaven — the others to eternal punishment.
This judgment will be based not on how influential we became in society, how high we climbed the corporate ladder, or any “worldly” achievements. Rather our judgment will be based on how we treated the least of those around us, whom Jesus calls His brothers. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.” To make His point very clear, Jesus gives specifics — feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, showing hospitality to the stranger, and caring for the ill and imprisoned. These are the priorities of our King. And these must be our priorities, too.
The more deeply we embrace the stewardship way of life, the more closely our priorities will align with His. This way of life prepares us well for our judgment day and helps us to live in imitation of our King right now.