Sunday Sermon for November 26, 2017, the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year A
Readings: Ez 34:11-12, 15-17; 1 Cor 15: 20-26, 28; Mt 25:31-46
In the first reading today we hear God speaking through the Prophet Ezekiel saying that He will tend His sheep as a shepherd tends his sheep. This might strike us as strange since the feast is about the Kingship of Christ. However, the King and the Shepherd are one and the same. I do not mean this in the same way as one can say that Jesus is the Prophet and the Priest. He is a Prophet and a Priest; He is also a King; but in this case King and Shepherd mean the same thing.
This is always startling to people because on the worldly plane the shepherd is the lowest while the king is the highest. But on the spiritual plane, the king is the one who serves, not the one who is served. Within the hierarchy of the Church, the Deacon fulfills the Kingly office. The word deacon means a servant, so the one who expresses the kingly office is the one who serves.
Jesus is the King of the Universe because of His service to humanity in the Incarnation and in the Paschal Mystery (His suffering, death, and resurrection). As God, our Lord is, of course, the highest in existence; He is infinitely higher than the highest of the creatures. In the Incarnation He showed the depth of His humility and the perfection of His charity. He made Himself the lowest and the slave of all; seeking nothing for Himself, He gave everything for us. This is why He is the King.
Each of us is a member of Jesus Christ through Baptism. This means that each of us also participates in the Kingly office of our Lord (as well as the Priestly and Prophetic offices). For this reason, our Lord is calling upon each of us to humble ourselves and strive to love those around us by serving them. This is precisely what we see in the Gospel reading today where the saved go to Heaven because of their charity to others while the condemned plummet downward because of their failure to serve those around them.
As our King and our Shepherd, we are to follow where He leads us. Since His service is one of pure love, the only proper response is to love Him in return. This means we are to serve Him as He serves us. Since, as St. Paul says, love never wrongs the neighbor, to love and serve our Lord implies humbly following Him in obedience, just as He was obedient in all things to His Father.
Because His service is one of love, we know He will always do what is the very best for us and ask from us only what is the best. This does not mean that we will always agree that this or that is the best, but we do not recognize it as being best due to our own limitations. This is why we need to follow our Shepherd obediently. Notice in the first reading that the sleek and the strong are destroyed by the Shepherd. Naturally, we would think these to be the best sheep in the flock, but the Shepherd sees them as being arrogant, selfish, stubborn, and disobedient. These are the type of sheep that do not want to follow the Shepherd, but want to blaze their own trail.
If we wander from the path upon which our shepherd leads us, we are effectively stating that we do not need a Shepherd; we are perfectly capable on our own. Doing this will lead other sheep astray as they will follow after us instead of following the Shepherd of their souls. Making ourselves into the shepherd cuts us off from the Lord and sets us up as our own savior.
Following obediently, on the other hand not only demonstrates that we recognize our need for a Shepherd and our dependence upon Him, but more than that, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading, in Christ, all will be brought to life in their proper order. On the other hand, every sovereignty, authority, and power will be destroyed. If we want to go our own way, we are making ourselves sovereign; we make ourselves the authority. Doing this, as we have already seen, is a sure way to destruction.
If we allow Jesus to be our King, our Shepherd, then something truly wonderful happens we become sovereign, but in Him, not of our own right. We share in His power and authority, not to lord over others, but to serve others as He did and continues to do. Choose Jesus as your Shepherd; follow Him in humility and obedience, serving others in love, and He will raise you on High where He will be your King forever!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.