By Fr. Bob Hilz, TOR
Ezekiel 34:1-12, 15-17; Psalm 23:1-6; 1 Corinthians 15:20-6, 28; Matthew 25:31-46
Dear Holy Spirit, please help us understand the significance of this solemn feast. We are now at the last Sunday of our Liturgical Year of 2017, the thirty-fourth of Ordinary Time. There is much that can be said about this Solemnity of Christ the King.
This most recent of the feasts in honor of Jesus owes its origin to Pope Pius XI in his Encyclical Letter Quas Primas on December 11, 1925., after World War II. He developed the idea that the most effective weapon against the destructive forces of our age is the acknowledgment of the kingship or lordship of Jesus Christ. It is now clearer that the exalted Lord and King is the goal not only of the liturgical year but of our entire earthly pilgrimage: “Jesus Christ… is the same yesterday, today and for ever,” Hebrews 13:8 and he is “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end,” Revelation 22:13.
This recognition will bring “the singular benefits of true liberty, of calm order, of harmony and of peace,” he said, He noted that for these results it is not necessary to just write a short teaching for a few to read but to add a new feast of Christ that will have lasting value for all the faithful. Therefore, he established this solemn feast.
Equality of Jesus Christ with God
The main reason for its establishment was looking back to the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, which taught the equality of Jesus Christ with the Father and thus provided the basis for his kingly rule. Originally it was set for the last Sunday of October just before the feast of All Saints. This would put Jesus’ glory above all the saints. A public consecration to the heart of Jesus Christ was to take place that day.
With the reform of the liturgy after Vatican Council II, it was appropriate as we finish our Liturgical year and think of the end of our earthly journey, to move this feast to the end of the year. Thus we have in mind the reward of our earthly journey to be with the Holy Trinity and all the angels and saints in heavenly glory. The readings chosen for this Solemnity speaks of the direction of our heavenly journey.
Jesus, our true shepherd
The first reading is the famous story of the true shepherd (Jesus Christ) who will pasture his sheep, give them rest. He will seek out and bring back the stray and heal the sick. Psalm 23 so beautifully builds on those themes.
Jesus is our true leader and shepherd. He wants to bring us to good pastures, give us rest and lead us on right paths. He spreads a table before us at daily Mass, and anoints us with oil so his grace in us overflows to those in need around us. Jesus wants goodness and kindness to follow us on our earthly journey so we shall rejoice forever with him in heaven. Aren’t these beautiful images?
Getting to Heaven
St. Matthew’s gospel, chapter 25, is the final judgment scene at the end of time. The good are separated from those who reject God’s plan. The latter to their chosen place of eternal suffering and Christ’s sheep join him in heavenly glory. Amen.
In this life we get so distracted about so many concerns each day. If we can’t get to daily Mass to be fed on God’s Word and the Body and Blood of Jesus, the best meal on earth, let us prepare a special place in our homes or apartments as a prayer room, to daily praise the Lord. There we can reflect especially on the New Testament, keeping our attention on Jesus for a little while.
Hymns of praise
“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation. O my soul, praise him for he is our health and salvation. All you who hear, now to his altar draw near, join in profound adoration.” This is the first verse of Praise the Lord, a 1700 hymn by Joachim Neander.
Or a recent hymn by Bob Dufford, SJ. “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock and gathers the lambs in his arms, holding them carefully close to his heart, leading them home.”
Have a blessed week closer to Jesus,
+ Fr. Bob Hilz
(© 2017 Fr. Bob Hilz, TOR)