“Communicating hope and trust in our time.”

- Pope Francis

‘The King is also shepherd and judge’

Christ the King Sunday, Year A
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Matthew 25:31-46

By Fr. Euly B. Belizar, Jr.

A STORY is told of a man who honors an invitation to attend the coronation of a king. On his way to the event he sees a man, obviously a shepherd, trying to save a sheep from falling into a cliff. He helps the man by blocking the sheep’s path and guiding him back to the shepherd. Imagine his shock to see the same shepherd at the coronation and he happens to be the new king to be crowned. And the king’s first act? He announces formally, pointing to him: “This man is truly a citizen of the kingdom. He helped me when I was most in need. I am appointing him as my chief counsel! Welcome to your king’s court.”
Life is full of surprises. But for us Christians there will be two surprises less on Judgment Day. We are forewarned today that our God is also our real Shepherd who himself will look after our true welfare and become our “judge” as “between one sheep and another” (first reading). Jesus Christ has fulfilled this prophecy not only by offering his life on the Cross for God’s Flock (us) but also by reigning after his resurrection “until God has put all enemies under his feet, and the last enemy to be destroyed is death…he will then subject himself to the One who made all things subject to him, so that God may be all in all” (second reading).

When we see the image of Christ the King we often see him on a throne, apparently reigning over us and the whole universe from heaven, that is, from afar. He appears so majestic in his glory, with all the earthly trimmings of pomp and circumstance. We ought to see how this does not tell us exactly the whole truth.

When I first saw a president in Borongan, it was President Ramos at the Cathedral as he turned over to the diocese a Marian image taken by American soldiers during the Philippine-American War. I was “shocked” to see how ordinary he was. This brings to mind the Gospel’s shocker. The King is actually in “ordinary” people: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick and the imprisoned. Our King will judge our conduct in regard to them: our acts of loving service and also our refusal to do the same. Says the King who, “shocks”, is also Judge: “I assure you, as often as you did it to one of my least brothers, you did it to me…I assure you, as often as you neglected to do it to one of these least ones, you neglected to do it to me…”
Another shock: “least brothers” doesn’t primarily mean anyone or any human being in need. This is a reference to the “shaliach” principle familiar to Jesus’ hearers: that is, the acceptance or rejection of an authorized agent or person means the acceptance or rejection of the sending authority himself. In a word, it primarily meant the Christian disciples especially those Jesus was sending to proclaim the Good News. We extend “least brothers/sisters” to include anyone in need only because our response to them is an expression of Christ’s Kingship over all human beings and, indeed, the whole creation.

If Jesus Christ is our King and also Judge, how do we respond to him? PCP II, in explaining the meaning of the “kingly” mission of Christ that we share through baptism, answers by teaching us that to be “kingly” is to “serve”. The “sheep” in the Gospel are easily recognized by the King-Judge because, like him, they “served”.

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