Nov. 22—The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Readings: Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 15-17; Psalm 23, R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.; 1 Corinthians 15: 20-26, 28; Gospel—Matthew 25: 31-46
Each year we end our liturgical season with the Feast of Christ the King. I think it is such a proper ending, a synthesis of the past year, even more meaningful now under our situation of the pandemic and, most recently, the triple calamities—from Typhoon “Quinta” (international name: Molave) to “Rolly” (Goni) to “Ulysses” (Vamco).
This year’s Gospel, the Parable of the Final Judgment, gives us great points to deepen this “year-end” synthesis.
One, the parable is a timely reminder that there will be a moment of judgment. It is not so much a harsh court judgment or court trial as it is a simple accounting before Christ the King.
Two, the Kingship of Christ is a good ending from which we will take off for the beginning of the new liturgical year, with next Sunday as the First Sunday of Advent—“begin with the end in mind.”
Three, the past eight months, from the time of the lockdown to the recent calamities, give us a concrete context within which we are to account for what we have done to the “least of our brethren.”
The parable and the feast give us a key element in the process of life, that there is an ending to each period or cycle. As in all endings, there are closures, syntheses and/or accounting to render.
During the time I did high school work, it was very clear that young people needed cycles of beginnings and endings. This is why having grading periods, giving them feedback through grades at the end of the period and allowing them to begin anew was good for them.
The same is true for all of us. Today we come to an ending. We synthesize. We account. Soon we begin anew.
We account before Christ the King, the King who told us from the very start of his ministry:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord… Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18-19, 21)
Accountable to the Lord
Yes, we will be held accountable, and this is the standard by which we will be measured, clearly laid out to us from the start. Thus it is the choices we have made that we will render as our accounting before Christ the King.
How did we witness to “a year acceptable to the Lord?” Did we proclaim “liberty to captives… recovery of sight to the blind” and freedom to the oppressed?
The Gospel today spells it out further: food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, welcome to the stranger, clothes for the naked, care for the sick, presence to those in prison.
This is the Kingdom of Christ the King. This is the accounting we need to render before him, and the “judgment” is ours. It is how we made our choices.
In this year, 2020, the context of these choices is clearer than in any previous year. The suffering of the majority of humanity who are marginalized has undeniably exposed, as clear as day, the injustice of inequalities across areas.
Pope Francis, at the start of the global pandemic, articulated the same. The experience led us back to the essentials in life and has given us the chance to reboot our relationship with God and with others.
It likewise showed us, the Pope further emphasized, that we can heal our common home, the planet earth and our human family.
This is the context of our accounting before Christ the King.
Let me leave you a prayer, a song that frames our reflections for this Sunday, a song that begins with the end in mind, and ends with an accounting.
“In the morning of my life I shall look to the sunrise, at that moment in my life when the world is new, and the blessing I shall ask only God can grant me: to be brave and strong and true, and to fill the world with love my whole life through.
“In the evening of my life I shall look to the sunset, at that moment in my life when the world is due, and the question I shall ask only I can answer: Was I brave and strong and true, did I fill the world with love my whole life through?”