The Solemnity of Christ the King November 26, 2017
Ezekiel 34, 11-12, 15-17 + Psalm 23 + 1 Corinthians 15, 20-26, 28 + Matthew 25, 31-46
All of a sudden, the Gospel of Matthew concludes with this parable that reaches back to the beginning tying it all together. The last of the parables repeats the last of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The next verse in Matthew’s Gospel begins the plot to kill Jesus and the story of his passion. So, what Matthew give us here is this grand pageant of the Last Judgement, a kind of Gospel within a Gospel for people dedicated to works of charity and justice for today’s multitudes suffering hunger, thirst, horrible illness, and imprisonment.
This parable is the crown of all reversal stories, a perfect example of what parables do: turn things upside down. Contrary to what most people generally think, when Jesus speaks of the “least brothers” he is not speak about the poor who are everywhere. This parable is spoken to his disciples telling them how to live during his absence with the assurance that he would always be with them. When he says: “Whatever you did for one of the least brothers” he is referring to his disciples”. “Brothers” is a term he reserves for disciples. In simpler terms then, the nations will be judged on how they received the Christian disciples, the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters who carry the presence of the absent Jesus.
With that clarification, take this parable now and think of it terms of the story we have told again so faithfully and so powerfully with the ministry of Blessed Stanley Rother. He is the blessed one. He is the least of Christ’s brothers as one who knew Christ was always with him. He is the one who was persecuted by those who refused the message of justice the Gospel proclaims. It is to men and women like Blessed Stanley Rother that this parable is addressed so that they may not lose courage and hope. It is spoken to us as well. It is spoken to a church that to this day is persecuted. Even more personally, it is a parable spoken to us who might sometimes waver or falter in our mission when we are judged and mocked, teased or attacked because we speak up for and stand up for justice and mercy, defending the homeless or immigrants, or warning of the dangers of great wealth and power.
What Jesus says to us today is that how we choose to live shapes our eternal future. All the readings today depict Jesus in his weakness so that we may understand how totally he has identified with us and remains one with us. In all that weakness, he still retains the greatest power of all. It is a power nothing and no one on this earth possesses. It is the power to move human hearts to compassion. With this power, we are turned lose on this earth by the command of Jesus, and we should fear nothing and no one keeping our eyes fixed on the image of this grand pageant Matthew puts before us as our hope and as his promise.