First Reading: Ezekiel 34. 11 – 12, 15 – 17. Psalm: 23. Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:
20 – 26, 28.
The kings who ruled over Israel and Judah were charged with defending their people from
neighbouring enemies who wanted to destroy them. Many kings had failed in this regard, which is
why the people were waiting for a Messiah-King, a son of David who would again build a great
nation as David had. Then along came Jesus, a Messiah who told people to love their enemies and
turn the other cheek. What king of a king was this?
In today’s seconding reading, St. Paul shows us what kind of king Jesus is. One who has as
conquered our true enemies. Satan, sin, and death. Jesus didn’t come to win a battle between
nations, instead, he came to win a cosmic battle with everlasting consequences. That’s why we
celebrate him today as “King of the Universe.”
Unlike an earthly king, Jesus did not engage his enemies armaments of war. No, he defeated them
by dying on a cross. Through his death and resurrection, he saved not just Israel but all who
believe in him (1 Cor 15:22). Out of his great love for each one of us, Jesus offered himself up,
disarming the devil and draining sin of its power. Now we are forgiven, redeemed, and given for
grace to love and forgive others as he has done for us. An though we still see evil in the world, we
know that Jesus will destroy ‘every sovereignty and every authority and power” when he comes
Today at Mass, let’s recommit ourselves to living under the reign of this great King. Let’s tell him
that we are ready to join him in rescuing his creation from the powers of darkness. Our King has
already shown us how to do this by offering ourselves in love to one another. Because without a
doubt, love is the most powerful force in the universe!
Paul visualises Jesus Christ handing over the kingdom to God the Father at the end of time. This
ideal kingdom is not something merely hoped for as a future gift, but something being worked for
by Christians in the present time. The kingdom is indeed to be hoped for, but somehow it is also in
our midst, in the process of becoming. Today’s gospel shows how we are to promote the fuller
coming of God’s kingdom in our world. It comes whenever justice is done for the hungry, the
thirsty, the naked, and the oppressed. To behave in this way is to imitate the Shepherd-King
himself who is presented in our Gospels as one who eases alienation, who feeds, gives rest, heals
and makes strong. Among his final words was a promise to the thief being crucified at his side, that
he would be enfolded by the eternal love of God, in paradise.
The best way to honour Christ our King is to work for the unfolding and promoting of his
kingdom. In working for the relief of deprived, oppressed or marginalised people, we are serving
Christ in person, because he fully identified with people in need, right up to his final moment in
this life. The disciple of Christ the King cannot afford the luxury of living in a gated community,
resolutely secure in a fortress, comfortably “keeping myself to myself” with the lame claim that “I
do nobody any harm.” To be deaf to the cries of my neighbour in need is to be deaf to Christ. To
be blind to the anguish of the dying is to be blind to Christ. To recognise Jesus Christ as our
Shepherd-king involves being carers or shepherds in some way ourselves; for the work of the
Kingdom goes on until he comes again.
A random act of kindness, a glass of water given out of goodness, seems like a very low threshold
for a personal friendship with Christ. Christians have always had a strong trust in Christ’s
humanity; he was like us in every way except that he did not sin. Although this Sunday portrays
him returning in regal splendour, the judgments of Jesus are not like ours either. He seeks good
among the ordinary and the bad alike; too often we seek bad among the ordinary and the good
alike. For Jesus, the sinner who does a single act in kindness can be saved. For the rest of us, the
saint that does something wrong is tarnished forever.
His hands stretched out in forgiveness to those who had nailed them down. Ours stretch out to
point in criticism at the wrongdoer. But we have a dominant image of what a judge is like and how
a judge should act. It is not surprising that the image of Jesus as a fair but stern judge is deeply set
with many Christians. There are even some who delight in the idea of bad people getting their just
Just as Jesus told the soldiers arresting him that his kingdom was not of this world; his standard of
judgment is not of this world either. That should be good news, although not everybody sees it that
“Vengeance is mine,” said the Lord. Traditionally Christ has been represented as coming in
majesty and power. From Michelangelo’s ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to the mosaics in many a
church apse, that image is prominent in western art. It is familiar because it is like what we do in
every way, except that we don’t forgive. The classic picture includes tormented souls being
dragged off to eternal flames.. It is likely that almost all of us have an idea of some of the people
who should be in that category.
In the 1970s musical Godspell, Stephen Schwartz recreated that judgment scene. Only, this time,
Jesus has second thoughts and brings the damned along too. They had sung a song asking for
mercy and they received it. That is an image which is very much in keeping with the words of
Christ the King: “Judge not and you will not be judged. Condemn not and you will not be
condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
He brings a different kind of rule, a rule where boundless mercy trumps self-righteous justice.