•Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 15-17 * I Corinthians 15: 20-26,28 * Matthew 25: 31-46•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today is called The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. That is so ironic! Read the gospels carefully. Jesus of Nazareth never acted like a king, never spoke of himself as a king, never encouraged others to speak of him as a king. Yet today we call him Christ the King.
What happened? Somehow, influenced by the social/political upheaval of that time, the text “when the Son of Man comes in his glory … he will sit on his throne” motivated Pope Pius XI to formally proclaim Christ as king.
There is another irony. While it seems inappropriate to name Christ “king,” illuminated by modern science, we are able to find unexpected significance in the title.
On a dark, cloudless night, look up at the night sky! It is brilliant. Look up and count the galaxies. Actually with your naked eye you can see only a small portion of one galaxy– our own Milky Way. Astronomers now estimate there are more than 300 hundred billion galaxies, each with billions and billions of stars. Each galaxy is expanding even as they move away from one another. “Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” Wow! What does THAT mean?
Several weeks ago the Ebola virus began to spread from Africa. In a short time 10,000 people died as the virus even reached the shores of North America. There was real concern about a worldwide epidemic. The spread of Ebola reminds us everything in this cosmos is interdependent. Everything that exists across oceans, and across the immensity of space, is interdependent. “Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.”
Recently while traveling in Turkey our guide took us to a 12th century building. This very large, cathedral like structure, was one of the many shelters along the ancient silk road. It provided safe nighttime shelter for traveling merchants. As we walked into the building, there was a single, narrow beam of sunlight streaming through a six-inch slot high up on the back wall. Dust particles danced in the sunbeam. It spoke to me of an unexplainable presence. The same day our bus drove for several hours under two brilliant, full rainbows stretching across the sky. These brilliant rainbows spoke to me of an unexplainable presence. “Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.”
Today all of us are struggling to regain our understanding of our brother Jesus whom God raised from the tomb. With words about sheep and goats Matthew offers insight into “the mystery of Christ!”
Most folks have yet to appreciate what “the Christ” means. For me I can no longer say Jesus is about salvation, heaven or hell. He is about life, the fulfillment of promise of a new creation for all people and the entire cosmic reality. In the risen Jesus, the power of God’s love is drawing all that is – the entire cosmos, into the divine, unbroken wholeness of love. The risen Jesus is “the Christ” because he is the human person in whom all human persons are to be united and transformed in God!!
In his life Jesus embodied compassion. His love was expansive and unconditional. He invited, welcomed, taught, healed and renewed even those left out of the marketplace and considered disposable. This text about sheep and goats is about compassion, suffering with the other, interdependence, shared life. In “the Christ” all of humankind will be united and transformed in God. “Sheep” or “goat” — we discover our true self in relation to others, especially the poor and marginalized. “Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.”
What happens in that moment when a human life crosses the threshold of death into the silence beyond? Matthew is telling us the Gracious Mystery we name God will welcome us into the finality of who we have become, of who we are, of our deepest truth, of what we have made ourselves.