Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - November 22, 2020
On this last Sunday of the Church’s year, we celebrate and praise Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Looking back over the course of the Church year, we recall the many images, roles, and titles the scriptures have given for Jesus. Today’s solemnity of Christ the King proclaims that it all comes to fullness and fulfillment in the one who is “worthy… to receive power and divinity, and wisdom and strength and honor… [to whom] belong glory and power for ever and ever” (Entrance Antiphon for Mass). Today’s celebration also provides a transition to the beginning of Advent next Sunday, a time for us to focus on preparing for the coming of our Lord in glory.
Today, Matthew’s Gospel presents us with Christ, the Son of Man, who exercises the roles of king, judge, and shepherd. As the Son of Man arrives in glory, all the nations are assembled before him, gathered for the final judgment. The one sitting on the throne, acting as king and judge, separates those before him, “as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” As king and judge, Jesus shows us the power and authority with which God acts in the lives of all the universe. As shepherd and king, we are reminded that absolutely everyone comes under our Lord’s care and authority. The language of power and authority should not put us off or frighten us because it goes together with the shepherd's personal care who is acting on our behalf.
The portrayal of God as a shepherd in the First Reading from the prophet Ezekiel and in the Responsorial Psalm 23 is crucial to our prayer and praise today. Through the prophet, we hear God saying that “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” The divine shepherd rescues those scattered in the dark, pastures the sheep and gives them rest, seeks out and brings back the lost, binds up the injured, and heals the sick. Psalm 23 reinforces the belief with the refrain, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” Ezekiel's prophecy found its fulfillment in Jesus, the Good Shepherd, which the Church especially celebrates during the Easter season. Today, combined with the roles of king and judge, our Lord shows us how power and authority combine with the personal care and attention that God gives to us. Unlike those who wield power and authority in the world, our Lord will indeed judge but will also look for us, heal us, and care for us as we prepare for his coming. Christ’s death and resurrection show us the extent of the care that God shows for us all.
The basis for our Lord’s judgment when he comes in glory is also noteworthy. Being created in the image and likeness of God and having been baptized into the death and resurrection of our Lord, we are called to follow his example. Having received the power and authority of God’s graces, we are called to act powerfully in service of others, especially those who are most in need. When we see and respond to the hungry, thirsty, lonely, sick, or imprisoned, we render service to Christ. Having received the powerful love and care of Christ, we strive gratefully to share that love and care with others. In this way, we can know the Father’s blessing and “inherit the kingdom prepared for [us] from the foundation of the world.”
One last thought: this week, we will celebrate Thanksgiving in some of the most unusual circumstances of our lives. Despite a pandemic that prompts safer and more modest celebrations, we, disciples of Jesus Christ, know how to give thanks. We give thanks every time we gather for the Eucharist. This week let us give God thanks for all His blessings by finding ways to reach out and share those same blessings with all our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
A blessed and safe Thanksgiving to you all!