Christ the King-Cycle A—2017

FIRST READING  Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17

Thus says the Lord God:  I myself will look after and tend my sheep.  As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep.  I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.  I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord God.  The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly.  As for you, my sheep—says the Lord God—I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.

SECOND READING        1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28

Brothers and sisters:  Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man.  For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order:  Christ the first-fruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; 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.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.  When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.

GOSPEL       Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:  “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.  And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’  Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’  And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’  Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’  He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’  And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Christ the King!  Christ is king of our hearts and of our lives.  Many of us today no longer think of actual kings but we can still understand the idea of a king.  We should think of the struggle in the Old Testament, the Jewish Scriptures, when the Jewish people decided to ask for a king on this earth, rather than just staying with their covenant with God.

Christ the King as a solemnity is about our covenant with God.  Perhaps we don’t often think that we have a covenant with God.  Often we only think of our Jewish ancestors and their covenants with the Lord God.  But our Scripture are called the New Testament and they refer to the New Covenant with the Lord God.  The point where we made that covenant is our baptism:  we were baptized into Christ and into the New Covenant with Him.

The first reading today comes from the Prophet Ezekiel and speaks of God as shepherd:  “The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly.”  Always the strong words of the Old Testament cause dismay for people today.  The Prophet Ezekiel, speaking in the name of God, tells us”  “the sleek and the strong I will destroy.”  This is not about God wanting to get rid of some of us.  Rather it is the destruction of a person so that the person can be reformed in God’s image.  The sleek and the strong live in illusion because the only strength in this life is Jesus the Lord.  The illusions need to be destroyed so that the sleek and the strong can form with God the same covenant as all the others.  We must rely on God.  None of us is strong in himself or herself.

The second reading comes from the First Letter to the Corinthians and speaks about the true goal of life is living in Christ and sharing the Resurrection of Christ.  In the end, everything will according to the will of God and living according to God’s plans.  So why do we have freedom?  So that we can freely give ourselves to the Lord and to the following of the Lord’s ways.  God is so patient with us and so willing to keep working with us, even when that work means destroying the parts of us that resist His will and His plans for us.

Today’s Gospel is from Saint Matthew and tells us that the way that we treat others is the way that we treat Jesus Christ Himself.  We know that intellectually but oftentimes pay no attention to it in our daily lives.  We are challenged to see Christ in each other person, especially those who most irritate us and cause us negative feelings and reactions.  That is why Jesus always tells us to love our enemies.  It is easy to love our friends.

So if Christ is our King, then we need to live our Covenant with Him.  We need to walk humbly in His ways and to trust in loving others that we ourselves will know God’s love in our lives.  This solemnity is not just about looking to God as our King or looking to Christ as our God-King.  No, it is about our Covenant with our God and King and a deep commitment to live as He wants us to live:  loving all because we love Him.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip