Date: Sunday, November 22, 2020
On one of these past summer-like November days, I went to the zoo. We have a beautiful zoo. We saw exotic animals like rhinos, a tiger and male lion, with full mien basking in the sun. We also found ourselves visiting a farm-in-the-zoo with domestic animals including sheep and goats. The sheep circled together munching the hay and grain. The two kid goats were intent on bumping heads. These animals are often linked together but they act differently!
In our first reading, verses from the prophet Ezekiel, God says that “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” God will rescue them from every place where they are scattered. God will pasture them and give them rest. “The lost I will seek out, the stray I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal but the sleek and strong I will destroy, shepherding rightly.” There is both pasturing and a note of judgment. “As for you, my sheep, says the Lord God, I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.”
Our responsorial psalm, a Hebrew poem, sings of God: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”
In the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus has a vision of the Son of Man coming in glory, sitting on a glorious throne, with the nations assembled before him. The King, like a shepherd, will separate one from another, the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. He will say to the sheep on his right: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcome me, naked and you clothed me, in prison and you visited me.” In amazement those on his right will ask the question: When did we care for you? To our/their surprise we will hear the words: “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”
The feast of Christ The King is late on the liturgical calendar. It was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to growing nationalism and secularism. Christ the King has an eschatological dimension pointing to the end time when the kingdom of Jesus will be established in all its fullness to the ends of the earth. It leads to Advent when the Church anticipates Christ’s 2nd coming. Pope Pius XI intended the solemnity to foster lay Catholic action and engagement in concerns of justice and charity.
When Jesus comes in glory as the Son of Man and nations are assemble before the Shepherd King, our place will be determined by whether or not we extended compassion to Jesus himself disguised in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, strangers and those in prison. Do we see Christ in others? Are we practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy?