Year A: Christ the King – Last Sunday of the Year

Jesus Christ the King is cosmic “Lord” of all creation.

Mosaic of Jesus Christ

Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; 1 Corinthians 15: 20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46

Some cannot embrace without misgivings the whole notion of Christ as “King”. It comes bearing the ‘gifts’ of Kingship hewn from the troubled history of Europe and other places. Jesus ran from being declared a king.  Pope Pius XI inaugurated the feast at a time when totalitarian and dictatorial regimes were subordinating individuals to the overruling claims of the state. The Church was running scared of what it categorised as atheistic communism.  The title was meant to witness to the Christian belief that Jesus Christ is cosmic “Lord” of all creation. Too often have scriptures and traditions been made ends in themselves so as to exclude most of humanity from inclusion in the call of God to His kingdom. The ‘Kingdom’ of God, according to the theologian Diarmuid O’Murchu, is best translated as the ‘companionship of the empowered’.

Ezekiel has a magnificent portrait of God as the direct shepherd of the flock of all humanity. ‘I am going to look after my flock myself’.  Are we going too far if we see here the impatience of God with all human self-appointed intermediaries? Ezekiel burns with the passion of God to be a rescuer of the flock of humanity. ‘I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered.’ There is, too, the reminder that God alone divides humanity in any real way: ‘I will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.’  All other divisions are purely man-made – cultures, nations, religions. It does not matter that the original meaning of Ezekiel may have been bound to some of the people of Israel at a certain place and time in their history. The meaning now must be read in the light of the times of today, and those times demand a more universalist reading. We may err against the authenticity of our tradition if we cling to outmoded, exclusivist readings in the name of some misguided sense of orthodoxy or preservation of some misjudged sense of so-called tradition. God and the mission of God to save all, to dialogue with all must override such limited interpretations of the Christian inheritance. We are called today to let go of these tribalisms. So, loyalty to a particular ‘family branch’ of the Christian church, be it Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, as well as to any other exclusivist belonging (religion, nation, tribe, colour, class), must always be set against the backdrop of that larger and more pervasive loyalty and commitment to the inclusive reality of a relationship with the divine. In this, we are one humanity.

Psalm 22: ‘The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.’ Who speaks? The psalmist does – yes, and then everyone and anyone on earth who has ever existed. We can widen our eyes!

1 Corinthians 15: Paul describes the state of all humanity, not any section of it. ‘All men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ.’  He goes on to say: ‘All of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then… those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father… so that God may be all in all.’  Paul’s canvas is cosmic. Implied in both those who belong to Christ and those then hidden in ‘the kingdom’ are all those who are saved into the love of God without necessarily knowing that they are saved through Jesus, but who nonetheless ‘belong’ to the Christ. All humanity is connected to the salvific work of Jesus the Christ. The Church is composed of those who, through no virtue of theirs, have the unutterable privilege of knowing it. Their task is to embrace the cosmic vision of Paul. Christians today can apply their theory of the ‘universal salvific will of God’ to the reality of acknowledging the presence of the Holy Spirit in all the attempts of humanity to find its destiny – in the world religions, in cultures, in nations and in all those who fulfil the invitation to self-sacrificial love of neighbour and creation.