November 24, 2002-Christ the King: Homily

Ez. 34: 11-17; 1Cor: 15: 20-26; Mt. 25:31- 46

And thus when all will be submitted to the power of the Son... God will be all in all (1Cor 15: 28). Today on the last Sunday of the liturgical year we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. The three readings that have just been proclaimed present three distinct but related aspects of Christ’s kingship. Ezechiel depicts the Lord God as a conscientious shepherd, concerned for the well-being of his flock. He not only sees to it they are well fed but protects them from danger and assists those who are weak or wounded. Still more remarkably, he searches out those who go astray and are in danger from wild beasts, being separated from the shepherd and the flock. In short, God watches with loving care over all his people, and none, weak or strong, wounded or healthy is devoid of his efficacious attentions. This concern for all is a characteristic of a true King. He has a personal and permanent relation to all those over whom he rules. His glory is to assure the welfare of all, the helpless and weak as well as the wealthy and strong. In contrast with tyrannts, a king worthy of the name is not concerned with pleasing only that part which supports him; his right to rule is intrinsic, based on a personal relationship he has established with each of his subjects. All too often in history kings proved to be tyrannical and so failed in their duty.

In the Gospel of Matthew it is Christ himself who is presented as the judge at the end of time, appointed by God the Father and empowered to act in his name. His judgment is just and definitive. His knowledge of hearts is without fault. There is no appeal from his decision; it is definitive; he exercises it without concern for human sentiment or favor. Justice is his guiding norm and nothing and no one can escape his penetrating vision. What he looks for is the presence of neighborly concern for those in need. In short, he requires that those who would enter his kingdom share his own commitment to be compassionate for all, including those who cannot assert their own rights. He knows well that there is no true justice except when love and concern for the welfare of others dispose the individual to give to each according to the need of the neighbor. Without mercy and love there is no real justice; judgment exercised too strictly leads to injustice. These truths are not here stated but are certainly implied, and are presumed by Christ who will judge all at the last day.

St. Paul, in the second reading, treats of the kingship of Christ, the risen Savior of all. While he does not use the term king, he does speak of Christ’s royal power. This is a power so forceful that in employing it he is capable of destroying all the powers of evil. In short, he is endowed with a transcendent authority and posses an insuperable force by virtue of the mission committed to him by the Father. Paul tells us that in this period between his resurrection and the final judgment Christ exercises a sovereignty that will eventually overcome all forces of evil. The power of death itself, he affirms, which, though weakened by the resurrection of Jesus, in the present dispensation still has a certain sway even over the elect in this life, will, in the end, be fully overcome so that nothing will resist his rule.

Jesus himself, at a most solemn moment of his existence, spoke of his power over life and death, in his moving prayer to the Father at the Last Supper. This statement gives, perhaps, the deepest insight into the nature of his royal character, which is so largely exercised in his priestly office.

His words are familiar to all of us.

Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son that your Son may also glorify you. As you have given him power over all flesh so that he might give eternal life to all whom you have given to him. This is eternal life that they might know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent, Jesus Christ (John 17: 1-3).

Jesus is King for our sake. His rule is beneficent, having as its purpose the glorification of the Father through leading us to that eternal life which he wishes to bestow on us as a gift. This understanding of his kingship discloses to us the ultimate significance of today’s feast. The one who will judge us at the end of time is the same who has come in time to be our Savior. May we celebrate his loving rule with gratitude at this Eucharist where we receive into our hearts Christ whom we welcome as our King. He comes to prepare us to share all we are with him that he might rule over our whole being and so lead us into eternal life to give everlasting praise to God our heavenly King and Father.

  Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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