Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, which is the last Sunday of the Church’s liturgical year. Next Sunday we begin a new liturgical year with the first Sunday of Advent. So it’s a day of transition, from one liturgical year to another, from Ordinary Time to Advent. This Feast of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 between two world wars, in the hope of counteracting the growing secularism “in public affairs and politics” and finding a way towards global peace. Peace would never be achieved, wrote Pope Pius XI, until and unless individuals and nations accepted the “rule of our Saviour”.
In today’s first reading the Prophet Ezekiel tell us that because the leaders whom the Lord appointed as shepherds over the people of Israel have done such a bad job, the Lord determines to take up the role of shepherd personally. Because the sheep are scattered and vulnerable, the Lord will search for them “and will seek them out”. A good shepherd works diligently to prevent scattering, because he cannot protect scattered sheep. Scattered sheep are isolated, alone, and vulnerable. I will seek that which was lost, and will bring back that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick“ (v. 16a). The lost, strayed, injured, and weak are those who are powerless and who have suffered at the hands of those who are powerful. In vs 15 the Lord says “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will cause them to lie down, says the Lord Yahweh“ Jesus is our Shepherd King who ministers to the sick, the grieving, and other vulnerable people.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes to his disciples the scene of the judgment of the Son of Man. All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate them as a shepherd separates sheep and goats upon their return from the pasture. The judgments made by the Son of Man will be based upon the acts of mercy shown to the least ones—the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned. Indeed, Jesus, who suffered on the Cross, identifies himself with the least ones.
Pope Francis – “At the end of the world, we will be judged,” he said. “And what will the questions be that the judge will ask?” They are listed in Matthew 25: 35-36: Did you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the prisoner?”