INTRODUCTION: Today, dear brothers and sisters, we celebrate the feast of the King of Kings. In fact, the entire liturgy of the Church is centered on the King of Kings. From the beginning of the church’s year, we have been hearing about the king who was coming, the anointed one of God who would save his people. When the angel Gabriel announced the message to Mary, he said, ‘You shall conceive and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor, he will rule over the people of Jacob forever and his reign shall have no end.
The Astrologers or the three wise men from the east came inquiring of Herod, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?”
When called as a disciple, Nathanael answered, almost prophetically, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel.”
At one point in Jesus’ ministry, the people responded so enthusiastically that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king.
When Jesus rides into Jerusalem, he purposefully fulfils the prophecy of Zechariah: “Lo, your king comes to you, humble and riding upon a donkey,” and the people greet him with the shout: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Kingship is the centre around which the charges against Jesus are brought to Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asks. Hours later, Pilate gives his own sarcastic affirmation in the legally required statement of charges placed on the cross: “This is the King of the Jews.”
The ridicule of the bystanders and the hope of the penitent thief are bound up in this same kingship in today’s gospel lesson. “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” the soldiers taunted. The crowd loved it! The penitent thief cries out: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingly power.”
In today’s Gospel, we will read about Christ the King who will come in glory to judge us on the day of Last Judgment.
1st Reding: Ezekiel 14:11-12, 15-17)
The image of the people of God as a flock of sheep occurs several times throughout the Bible. In this oracle, the current shepherd, i.e., the rulers of Israel, are rebuked for their self-interest and lack of care for their subjects. Furthermore, some sheep have grown fat at the expense of others, i.e., some people have acquired wealth and power by oppressing others who are poorer and weaker. Ezekiel warns that justice will be done. He says that Yahweh himself will take charge of his flock and be the true shepherd who will put an end to all the misrule.
2nd Reading: 1 Cor 15: 20-26, 28
In this passage Paul spells out the consequence of Christ’s resurrection. He affirms that Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee of the resurrection of those who have died. The first fruits of any harvest indicate that there are more fruits to come. Man is responsible for death (Gen 2:17), and resurrection of the dead also come through a man. Then will come the end, the last event of this cosmic history, when Christ delivers into the hands of the Father the Kingdom after having subdued all. He will reign as the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth until all is subject to him. When this is finally accomplished, Christ will bow the knee to God the Father so that God may be all in all.
Gospel: Matthew 25: 31-46
It is mandatory for a student to appear for an examination at the end of his/her academic year. Passing in it is essential for proceeding further. All those who aspire for a job will have to pass the tests and interviews placed before them. Similarly, in order to cross from earthly life to eternal life we have to appear before the Eternal Judge. It is the Son of Man who presides over this judgement, rewarding some and condemning others. The King will use simple ordinary criteria for judgement: they all have to do with charity towards one’s neighbours. The righteous would have fed the hungry, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked and visited the sick. The unrighteous would have failed to do all of these. Ironically, everything that the King would ask are exactly those which he himself has done while on earth. Jesus has healed the sick, fed the hungry and welcomed one and all who came to him.
The judgement scene comes after three parables about preparing for the coming of the Son of Man, namely, the parables of the faithful/wicked servants (Mt 24: 45-51); the ten maidens (Mt 25: 1-13); and the talents (25: 14-30). In each case everyone knows that the Master will come eventually no matter how long he may be delayed. In the meantime, what is demanded is constant watchfulness. In this the wicked servant, the foolish maidens, and fearful/lazy stewards fail. But the faithful servant, the wise maidens, and the enterprising stewards succeed. The challenge before us is to prepare ourselves for the final test.
When we stand before the judge what answer will we give to him? Will we pass the ultimate test of our lives?