Today’s Solemnity always takes place on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time before the beginning of Advent and the start of a new liturgical year. In Advent, we prepare for the two comings of Christ – as a baby in Bethlehem, and His return as a king in glory. This celebration of Jesus’ kingship prepares us for both comings of the Christ.
This feast exalts the royal and divine attributes of Christ. Ezekiel prophesies the coming of a Messiah who will live humbly as a shepherd, focusing his efforts on seeking out the lost, the straying, the injured and sick. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. This shepherd promises a safe ground for pasture and rest for the weary of his flock. Above all, Ezekiel suggests the personal concern and care the Lord will show for each of his lambs: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. This reading is very much in Jesus’ mind centuries later when he evokes the same image in the Gospel – that of the shepherd separating the sheep from the goats.
At this point in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is soon to be led out to the cross. Before he goes, he draws our attention to his return in glory and the final judgment. With so little time left in his life, Jesus calls upon his disciples to use whatever time has been left to them, and to us, wisely and not out of self-interest, but rather to look after the needs of the least among us, knowing that whatsoever we do for one of these little ones, we do for Him. We serve our king by serving each other.
Jesus is a king like no other. The only crown our king ever wore was made of thorns and brambles. As we conclude the season of Ordinary Time and move into Advent, let each of us make an accounting of our stewardship before the coming of our King. Have we been loyal subjects? In our prayers and daily living, do we treat Christ as a sovereign over us or as a servant who exists only to do our will? We pray with the coming of Advent that Jesus will lead us and guide us in the ways of service, helping us to show our love for God by how we love and serve one another, especially the least among us.
-Fr. Jonathan Austin
(Photo by Anton Darius | Sollers on Unsplash)