By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King - On the Gospel
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True Subjects of the Kingdom

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

The Salvation Army does not believe in baptism, in the Eucharist nor in the priesthood. Yet you never hear people criticise them. Why? Because what they do speaks so loudly that no one cares what they believe. They provide soup kitchens for the starving. They clothe the naked on our streets. They rehabilitate those addicted to drug and alcohol. They are there wherever disaster strikes. As far as people are concerned these are the things that count. The Parable of the Last Judgment in today's gospel shows that these are the things that count before God as well. For in the Last Judgement no mention whatsoever is made of people's church beliefs but only of the practical help they gave or did not give to the needy and the disadvantaged of this world.

Today, the last Sunday in the liturgical year, we celebrate and confess Christ as our king. The readings invite us to reflect on the kind of king Christ is and what it means for us to truly say that we belong to his kingdom. The first reading from Ezekiel talks about God as the shepherd of Israel. The kings of Israel were regarded as God's visible representatives and were given the divine title of shepherd. But many of them did not live up to this responsibility. Their leadership style differed from God's style. God's style was that of giving priority of attention to the needs of the disadvantaged, especially their need for justice and empowerment. This is affirmative action in the best sense of the word:

I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice (Ezekiel 34:16).

First God raised up prophets, like Ezekiel, to warn the kings. When they failed to listen, God decided to get rid of the ungodly kings and their beneficiaries, and promised that He would shepherd the flock Himself. The Israelite conquest in which the big people, the royalty and the nobility, were banished into exile was seen as God's way of getting rid of the bad leadership.

What about God's promise to rule His people Himself. As Christians we see that this promise is fulfilled in the person of our Lord, Jesus Christ, whose kingship we celebrate today. Jesus has begun his reign as king, but he will come on Judgment Day to bring it to completion. On that day he will sit on his throne and sort out from all nations those men and women, and boys and girls, who really belong to his kingdom. Notice that both the righteous and the accursed address Jesus as "Lord." It is not what we call him that matters but whether or not we have come to the help of the needy and the disadvantaged in our midst.

The specific actions mentioned are (i) feeding the hungry, (ii) giving drink to the thirsty, (iii) clothing the naked, (iv) sheltering the homeless, (v) visiting those in prison, and (vi) taking care of the sick. Add (vii) burying the dead, and you have the traditional Seven Corporal Works of Mercy. The Final Judgment on whether we are true Christians or not, whether we belong to the kingdom of Christ or not, will be based on whether or not we have done the corporal works of mercy. This is our number one Christian obligation both as individual men and women and as a family of believers.

The good news we celebrate today is that we have a King who, unlike the kings of this world, pays attention to us and helps us not only when we are needy and disadvantaged, but especially when we are needy and disadvantaged. The challenge for us today is to forget our own needs for love and happiness and to reach out in love to make someone happy who may be in greater need. For whatever we do to the least of these needy children of God, theses brothers and sisters of Jesus, we do to Jesus Himself.

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