|by Angela (Lambert) Jendro|
November 26th, 2017 Solemnity of Christ the King
Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46 NAB
Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
At first glance, this passage can seem a little harsh. We like to imagine a more sentimental Jesus, gently escorting every person to eternal pleasure, not a rigid judge calculating our deeds and sending some to eternal suffering.
Jesus is king and judge, but as He often reminded His followers – His kingdom is not of this world. When pressed by Pilate to explain further, Jesus answered “I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice” (John 18:37).
We, like Pilate, may ask “Truth? What is that?” (John 18:38).
Truth is Reality. As Pope Benedict XVI often said in his writings, it means acknowledging that God is the Creator and we are creatures. The laws of nature that govern the health of our soul are as real and concrete as the laws that govern the health our body.
The truth is also that God is love and we are made in His image. Though weakened by sin, we have been re-made by Christ and transformed by His grace to image God’s love again. Thus, St. John can say,
|“My dear friends, let us love one another, since love is from God and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever fails to love does not know God, because God is love…as long as we love one another God remains in us and His love comes to its perfection in us.” 1John 4:7-8,12|
So if the Truth is that God is love and we are love, what does that mean on an everyday level? How does that look? How does it translate to our schedules?
Pope St. John Paul II defined love clearly and simply: it is self-gift. Thus the paradox of human happiness he concluded, is that we find fulfillment for ourselves in giving of ourselves.
This means fighting the pull of self-centeredness and mere consumerism. We have to turn our attention from acquiring things, to giving of ourselves. Should we try to over-complicate the matter or pay mere lip service, Jesus states clearly the fruits of authentic love: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick or imprisoned…
Jesus is Truth and Love. No one can pretend to be something they are not when standing before Him. Those who love will rejoice to be fully united with the King of Love. Confident in His mercy, they will say yes to His transforming grace which will free them from any remaining pulls of worldliness or selfishness so they can be free to fully enter the Communion of Saints and Angels in union with God. Those who prefer the Kingdom of Self will refuse to enter the Kingdom of Self-Gift, preferring to be alone.
We see this in an analogous way during the holidays. Time with family requires a sacrifice of time, generosity of food and travel, hospitality, patience, and attentiveness toward others. The more we love our family, the easier those things become, so much so we may even look forward to those opportunities as a gift of service that brings us joy. The less we love, the more burdensome they seem, so much so a person may choose to remain alone on the holiday rather than deal with it all.
It’s not so much that Jesus will come to decide who “gets” to go to Heaven and who doesn’t, since He came to offer Redemption to all. It’s more the case that He will come as Judge of the Truth about our decision to accept or reject His saving grace in our hearts. The world might say, “show me the money,” but Jesus will say, “Show me your love.”
Life is short, eternity is long. We must begin EVERY day with prayer – even just 5-10 minutes and go to Mass EVERY Sunday, to unite ourselves to the source of Love and Grace. From this union with Christ, fruits of His Spirit of love will permeate the actions and decisions of our day (see Galatians 5:22-23). If we first love God above all things, we will then love our neighbor as ourselves because we will see God’s image in them and desire as Christ does to mend its wounds of sin that their God-given dignity and glory might shine more gloriously.
Sound too simplistic? Give it a try. Compare a day began with 10 minutes of prayer and a day without. I can attest that I am a far more loving person with prayer and a far more frazzled impatient person without it. See how your week goes after attending Sunday Mass. Try going to one daily Mass in addition and notice the fruits that follow in your interactions with others that day.
- Consider how love makes work or service less burdensome.
- Consider how selfishness undermines relationship and causes discord in your family, friendships, and work.
- Consider how Christ’s love and grace has transformed you. How has He changed you for the better over the years? How has His Spirit changed the way you think and act? What are areas of your life that still need transformation?
- When have you experienced self-fulfillment/happiness through self-gift? How might you continue to give of yourself to those in your daily life?
- Take a moment for gratitude, to thank Christ for the sins that He has conquered so far in you. Then take a moment for petition, asking Christ to conquer those sins that still remain. Finally, take a moment for intercession, praying for those in need of healing that Christ might conquer the sins burdening them.
- Close your eyes and imagine the joy of Heaven. Imagine Christ coming in all His glory, shining brighter than the sun, smiling, and holding out His hand for you to join Him.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Begin every day this week with 5-10 minutes of prayer. Read the Scriptures, thank God, surrender your day to Christ, spend a couple of minutes in silence.
- Intentionally practice one corporal and one spiritual Works of Mercy a day.
- Read about the life of a saint who is similar to you in some way to learn from his or her example. You can research “patron saint of__________” to find someone with an affinity to your work or your struggle. You could also try researching someone with your same vocation such as married, single, or religious. You can find saints who were young or old, men or women, from small towns or big cities, were well educated and travelled or simple and hidden. You may also like to research a saint who shares your name.
~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017
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