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GOSPEL AND REFLECTION
SUNDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2020: OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE YEAR A
First Reading – Ez 34:11-12. 15-17
You, my flock, I judge between sheep and sheep.
The Lord says this: I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view. As a shepherd keeps all his flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep, so shall I keep my sheep in view. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest – it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.
As for you, my sheep, the Lord says this: I will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.
Ps 22:1-3. 5-6. R. v.1
(R.) The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Second Reading – 1 Cor 15:20-26. 28
He will hand over the kingdom to God the Father, so that God may be all in all.
Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death. And when everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subject in his turn to the One who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all..
Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessings on the coming kingdom of our father David!
Gospel – Mt 25:31-46
He will take his seat on his throne of glory, and he will separate men one from another.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.” And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’
“It has long been a common custom to give to Christ the metaphorical title of King.” These are the words of Pope Pius XI who established this feast between two world wars in the hope of counteracting the growing secularism “in public affairs and politics” and finding a way towards global peace. Peace would never be achieved, wrote Pope Pius XI, until and unless individuals and nations accept the “rule of our Saviour”.
In some ways, hope for the global reign of the Prince of Peace seems more remote than ever. The challenge of the so-called Islamic State in the Middle East, of Boko Haram in Africa and of the White Supremacist Movement in the United States have marked new low points in more than a century of violent and ongoing conflict which has claimed the lives of some 180 million people across the globe. COVID-19 has underscored the vulnerability to violence of those rendered poor by the prevailing inequitable economic system. From a Christian perspective, the world needs the sort of leadership that Jesus of Nazareth advocated in first century Palestine, the kind of leadership that Pope Francis is offering to our world.
The gospel for today provides a blueprint for Christian living in general and for leadership in particular. Matthew presents Jesus as both shepherd and sheep: as judge and king on the one hand and as a suffering human (“the least”) on the other. Works of mercy are the measure of justice or righteousness. Those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, and set the prisoners free are “the righteous/the sheep” who will inherit God’s empire or kin-dom and have life. Those who fail in these respects are the unrighteous/the goats who fail to recognise the presence of the shepherd/king in the suffering of “the least”. Why sheep and goats? While goats grazed with the sheep, they were never imaged as God’s people, somewhat unfairly, I suggest. “Sheep”, on the other hand, is a frequent biblical designation for the people of God’s fold.
This gospel story is replete with mixed metaphors. It is the gospel source of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy that have informed the Christian way of life for centuries. It focusses on suffering humanity. In proclaiming an eighth work of mercy, care for our common home, Pope Francis has asked us to expand our horizons and to extend our concern to the suffering of the whole Earth community, human and other-than-human.
The Feast of Christ the King brings the church year to a close. It invites us to consider ways to achieve the things that make for peace. If we wish God’s reign of peace to be realised on planet Earth, then we might heed the invitation of Pope Francis to care for our common home: to engage in “grateful contemplation of God’s world” on the one hand and in daily gestures that “break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness” on the other.
Sr Veronica Lawson rsm
© The scriptural quotations are taken from the Jerusalem Bible, published and copyright 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton Longman and Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Co Inc, and used by permission of the publishers. The English translation of the Psalm Responses, the Alleluia and Gospel Verses, and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, and the Titles, Summaries, and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass © 1997, 1981, 1968, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.