Just a word… The Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe…

Just a word… The Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe… November 22, 2020

Imagine if you were Jesus, with what words would you want to leave your followers if it was the last time you spoke to them? Our gospel today is the last recorded teaching of Jesus, according to Matthew. Presumably, these were the lessons Jesus most wanted his followers to remember. In speaking about our final destiny, Jesus surprises us with his choice of words.

He doesn’t mention what doctrines to believe in, or how successful or wealthy we should become; he doesn’t encourage fame, or praise us for how bright or law-abiding we are; instead, Jesus implores us to feed the hungry, quench thirst, clothe the naked, comfort the sick, visit those in prison. Our shepherd-king uses the following as the criterion for entrance into heaven: how great is our compassion for the least, the lost, the last, saying in effect that if you live a life of compassion you will inherit the kingdom. We all have been given this ability for showing compassion, tucked into our hands and hearts, as the master in last week’s gospel entrusted talents to his servants.

But not content with one surprise, Jesus reveals a second, just to reinforce his point.

Our shepherd-king breaks through all geography, politics, religion and any other boundary we humans devise to categorize others, and tells us that HE IS the jailed one, the hungry one, the naked, the homeless immigrant, the refugee on the run, the tortured prisoner, the enslaved drug addict. Do you see how brilliant God is? That way the Catholics will inherit the kingdom, but the Buddhists will too; as an American you belong to the kingdom when offering a drink of water to the thirsty, and so does the Afghani. You are like Jesus when you receive the stranger as guest, and so is the person you care for least. All are of the same royal stock as you.

Viewed through this lens, this parable is not so much about judgment as it is a wide-open invitation, a call to every human being to do what we have been gifted by God to do… to live lives of compassion, because in doing so, we will be brought to the very places where we will meet Christ, even if we don’t recognize him.

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