1

Christ the True King

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.”

Matthew 25:  31-46

 

 

 

And so our liturgical year comes to a close with the feast of Christ the King.   Just after the beginning of World War II the hero pope Pius XII wrote the encyclical  Summi Pontificatus in which he reminded all of humanity that in the final analysis Christ, not Man, is King.

 

To consider the State as something ultimate to which everything else should be subordinated and directed, cannot fail to harm the true and lasting prosperity of nations. This can happen either when unrestricted dominion comes to be conferred on the State as having a mandate from the nation, people, or even a social order, or when the State arrogates such dominion to itself as absolute master, despotically, without any mandate whatsoever. If, in fact, the State lays claim to and directs private enterprises, these, ruled as they are by delicate and complicated internal principles which guarantee and assure the realization of their special aims, may be damaged to the detriment of the public good, by being wrenched from their natural surroundings, that is, from responsible private action.

 

In today’s reading we are reminded that the God who marks the sparrow’s fall also recalls our acts of charity, mercy and love, as well as our sins.  How many have escaped damnation due to some forgotten kind act that redeems all in the eyes of God who sees us so infinitely better than we see ourselves?  When Christ sits in judgment of us, we will rightly tremble, but Justice incarnate will treat us better than we merit, because He sees us with the eyes of infinite love.  So much of the evil in our world is caused by our simple failure to ignore the love of God and to supplant His role as the ruler of our hearts with false Gods of our own creation.  Man made rulers are necessary in this world, but our actions in this world are mere stepping stones to our citizenship in the next, where Christ’s Kingdom, that He spoke of so often during His time on Earth, will be an everlasting reality.

Rudyard Kipling wrote long ago words that I always recall on this feast:

 

The tumult and the shouting dies;
   The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
   An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
2

Seat of Moses

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Matthew 23: 1-12

 

When Peter first met with Christ he told Him to leave him, because he was a sinful man.  Perhaps Peter had many sins on his soul, but I think it more likely that he simply was not a learned man and was unable to keep, or even be aware of, the myriad ritual purity laws of the Jews, and thus he regarded himself as sinful and unclean as a result.  Judaism had largely been reduced to a system of avoiding ritual impurity by the time of Jesus, and only a man, a Scribe or a  Pharisee, who devoted himself to the study of the Law, could possibly keep the hundreds of laws that Jews had to observe if they were to be kept free from ritual impurity “sin”.  The greatest of the Rabbis understood that mercy and justice were much more important to God than the observance of the endless minutiae of the Law governing ritual impurity, but as the general reaction of the Scribes and the Pharisees to Jesus indicates, their voices were in the minority.

Jesus acknowledges that the Scribes and the Pharisees were the leaders of the Jewish religion.  (As usual Jesus ignores the Sadducees who ran the Temple.  Presumably they were so far from God that it was not worth His time speaking against them.)  He bids the people to do what they say but not to follow their example.  By their works they demonstrated how far their hearts were from what Moses had taught, let alone Christ.  Christ respected the office held by the Pharisees, the seat of Moses that they had assumed, but constantly attacked them for failing to live up to that office.  Words of special meaning to Catholics in this year of grace 2017.