Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King as the culmination of the Church’s liturgical year before we begin a new liturgical year with Advent. There are two themes resonating through the readings for this great feast: 1.) the end of time and the final judgment; and 2.) the reign of Jesus Christ as king of the universe. In the first reading, we see God portrayed as a shepherd with the people who faithfully follow Him being His sheep.
God gathers together His scattered “sheep” and tends to His people. As His sheep, we are called to follow Him, listening to His voice and doing what He tells us. Like a good shepherd, God will protect us and care for our every need. With Him, we have security. Still, we can stray from the fold. If we do, God will judge us accordingly. God will separate the “sheep” from the “goats” (that is, those who listen to him and follow him and those who don’t). And there are consequences for not following God as our shepherd, as we will see in the Gospel reading.
In this passage, the Apostle Paul speaks of the centrality of the resurrection of Jesus to our faith and reminds us of our future resurrection at the end of time. Jesus Christ is the “firstfruits” of those who have died being raised from the dead, meaning that he paves the way for the resurrection of His followers. With His resurrection He conquered death and made possible for all of us who are dead in sin to be brought to new life. Jesus’ resurrection comes with a promise: those who belong to Him will experience resurrection too. That is, Christians who faithfully follow Jesus have the hope of the final resurrection of our bodies when we will be united with God in heaven for all of eternity. In fact, we proclaim our belief in this every time we recite the creed (“I look forward to the resurrection of the dead”). This resurrection will come at the end of time when Jesus will come again. Then, His reign as king will be brought to perfection, when death and the evil one are defeated and “everything is subjected to him.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the end of time and the final judgment. He refers to Himself as the Son of Man and speaks of His kingship. The judgment is illustrated by the separation of sheep and goats (piggybacking on the first reading’s shepherding example). The sheep represent the righteous who love and serve the king, Jesus. They do this by loving and serving those in need. Here, then, Jesus shows how love of God is inseparable from love of neighbor, for He explains, “whatever you did for one of the least brother of mine, you did for me.” Thus, we love and serve Jesus through loving and serving the needy. On the other hand, the goats represent those who ignore Jesus, turning a blind eye to those in need and, therefore, not loving and serving Jesus, the king. At the final judgment, the sheep will be separated from the goats. The former will be rewarded with eternal life and the latter will be punished with eternal damnation. The way we choose to live determines which group we will be in.
Take time to reflect this week on how you can better live in a way that honors Jesus as the king of your life. Think about this question, in particular: Am I living more like a sheep or a goat (according to the Gospel)? And, how will my actions affect my eternal destiny?BACK TO LIST