Jesus Christ the King reminds us that we will be judged by the way we have treated others, for our love or rejection of Christ is based on our love or rejection of his brethren.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
26 November 2017
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The gospel proclaimed in the liturgy is from Matthew (25:31-46), often referred to as “The Judgment of the Nations” in which Christ teaches about his just judgment at the end of time that entails the separation of the sheep from the goats.
In this gospel is found both a wondrous promise and an alarming warning: those who assist others in their need will merit eternal life, as Christ said, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” On the other hand, those who refuse to provide for the poor will merit eternal damnation:
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.
Jesus Christ the King identifies himself with those in need: with the hungry, the thirsty, the sojourner, the ill, those naked and imprisoned. Indigent people are not merely his subjects but share a kinship-bond with him. In fact, this relationship is of such a level of intimacy that Christ claims whatever we give to others, we give to him, and whatever we withhold from others, we withhold from him. Christ can speak of this relationship because he is the incarnate Son of God who assumed an individual human nature to his divine Person.
Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One who became perfectly man while remaining perfectly God. Jesus identifies with the poor because, although he was in the form of God, he “did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8).
Whatever I do to others, I do to Jesus Christ their King.
When I serve others, it is Christ who I serve; when I withhold from others selfishly, I withhold from the One who gave his life for me. When I am judged by the incarnate Son of God, the way I’ve treated my neighbor will be applied to my treatment of Jesus Christ, the King of The Universe.
Jesus Christ is the perfect model of love, holiness, and obedience. He sacrificed his humanity on the cross in perfect love and obedience of his will to God the Father. He accomplished this sacrifice not for God’s sake—not in order to fulfill any need of God, for the Triune Godhead has need of nothing whatsoever outside of himself—but rather for our sake, for you and for me and for us all. Jesus Christ brought the justice of God to bear on our sins upon the cross in the form of his own sacrificial, infinite and divine love. Thus his voluntary and innocent death becomes a redemptive death that opens the way to eternal communion with the Tripersonal God:
For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Rom 5:10-11)
Today’s gospel reminds us of the responsibility we have to, assisted by the grace of the Holy Spirit, join our life into union with Christ. We must become one with him who became one with humankind.
I must live and act as Jesus lived and acted. I must make sacrifices out of love as he did. I must serve freely, obediently and with humbleness as did Christ. As Jesus accomplished his sacrifice for the love of his brethren, offering it to the Father in redemptive love, so too must I offer up sacrifices in my life for the love of Jesus and for the love of my neighbors who are created in the image and likeness of the incarnate Son of God and who themselves are redeemed by his saving death. The pattern of the life of Jesus must become morally the pattern of my life as well. I must image Christ the King in whose likeness I have been made.
Imaging Christ in our lives is not easy. It is difficult for us to live a life of holiness in service to God and neighbor—in fact, it’s impossible without grace. Due to the dark effects of original sin and its consequence of a disfigured human nature, man often tends to see himself as the center of the universe. Rather than opening himself to others in love and giving of himself in service to his neighbor, as did Christ, he turns inward and selfishly views himself as more important than others. Instead of pouring out love, he hoards possessions, labors to acquire wealth and power, and with this power asserts control over others in a disordered fashion. All of this isolates man from God, neighbor, and even from his better self who is created to image Christ in truth and love.
The only solution to this downward spiral is Christ himself. By virtue of his saving passion, death, and resurrection, he has restored what was lost, defeated evil, rescued us from darkness and brought us into the sublime light of God. Seated at the right hand of the Father, Jesus Christ infuses into those souls who turn to him in faith his infinitely loving Spirit, whose compassionate directives and loving advocacy illuminates our path as the New Law of our lives.
With Christ, all things are possible. By grace working through faith, I can become one with Jesus and live the life of love he himself lived.
Jesus Christ the King, in giving his gifts of love and grace, make it possible for me to remember that all those I meet were created in and through and for him; they are made in his image and likeness, loved by him, sustained in existence by him, redeemed by him. Jesus gives me his Spirit as my possession, whose divine activity recreates me, and whose love becomes my love: I then possess divine Love. Animated by this Love, I am enabled to love others because they are loved by God and destined to share eternal life with him by virtue of the saving death and resurrection of the incarnate Son of God.
Jesus Christ the King of the Universe is the perfect sovereign ruler who provides for his subjects not as a powerful dictator or nefarious tyrant but with the gift of his own life. He has given me this divine gift that I may be empowered by grace to give my life to him. In doing so, my life opens to an infinite, unseen horizon of fulfillment. In joining to Christ in faith and ordering my life by his life, I receive everlasting life by virtue of a share in his own divine life. When I bring my life under the rule of Christ the King, I live in his kingdom and thus live in a new kind of way, a way opposed to the world’s ways, a way in harmony with the ways of God. This new way of life leads to perfect happiness and fullness of life because its end is God himself, who is perfect love, truth, beauty, goodness, and being.
Let us all make Christ our King and willingly bring ourselves under his sovereign, loving and compassionate rule. It’s the only way to really live.
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Photo Credit: John Stephen Dwyer [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel.