Homily for XXXIV (34) Sunday (Christ the Universal King) Year A. 22-11-2020 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Psalm: Psalm 22 (23): 1-3a, 5-6
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
Today being the last Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the Universal King. On this last Sunday, our minds are drawn also to the last things which we otherwise call the truths of eschatology. In our Catholic penny catechism, we are taught that these last things are four; death, judgement, heaven and hell. It is not strange then that already in our first reading from the prophet Ezekiel, God is presented to us as a judge. This truth is also eternally enshrined and affirmed in the 6th and 7th articles of the symbol of faith where we profess in the creed thus; “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” Therefore, it is clear that after our death, judgement is the inevitable fate that awaits each and everyone of us. What would be the outcome of our judgement should bother us all. A sensible person will therefore be concerned not just about living in this world without thinking about that ultimate moment when the Lord shall come to call us in judgement to give an account of how we have lived our lives. On this note, we should ask ourselves today, how are we living our lives? Can you say you are living your life well before God? Based on the manner you are living now, where do you think you will be after judgement? heaven or hell? To give us an insight into what shall befall us, the Lord gives us a criterion of evaluation in the gospel reading in the last of Matthew’s great parables.
Christ in the gospel demonstrates to us that surely there is going to be judgement at the end of our lives. The good people separated from the bad ones will be rewarded for their good deeds, while the bad ones will be punished for their evil deeds. But what criteria is He going to use? Just as God created us out of love and out of love sent His Son to the world to redeem the world, He is also going to evaluate us at the end of time based on that same standard of love of which we are products of. To love therefore is to live a life true to our identity and vocation as children of a loving God. That is why St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:13 in teaching us the theological virtues says, “…now these three remain: faith, hope and charity, and the greatest of these is charity.” Charity is that love of God in action.
From here we can glean two points from the parable. Firstly, that we will be judged based on our charity in terms of the treatment we mete out to those in need. And secondly, that Christ dwells in each person, and personally identifies with the poor, suffering and the marginalized. So, whatever we do to them, we do to Christ directly. This is why Pope St. John Paul II said that ‘the world does not need preachers anymore but witnesses.’ So even though it is good to practice our faith and hope by going to church and through pious acts like prayer, fasting and abstinence, and living holy lives, these can never be sufficient and are in fact incomplete if they do not lead us to generous loving acts towards our neighbour such as almsgiving and charity. St. James in teaching us this truth says “you have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:18).” In other words, we must be people who can translate the love of God into concrete action in the manner we live our lives, preaching with our deeds rather than our words. This is different from humanitarian service and philanthropy where we give to people because we want them to feel good and live a happy life while we in turn derive satisfaction. Much more than that, when it is charity, we are not just doing good deeds but we are seeking the very presence of the Lord in those who are poor, suffering and marginalized. We see in them the suffering face of Christ who to uplift them, identifies Himself personally and directly with them saying; ‘I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was naked, I was a stranger, I was sick, I was in prison, and you did so and so unto me.’ Therefore, whatever we do to them, especially the very least and weak of the society, we are doing directly to Jesus since He has a special relationship with them.
Many of us today can rightly sing with the psalmist “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want” because He has blessed us without measure. However, do we even remember that whatever we have is a blessing from the Lord? Since He is so generous to us, how generous are we in turn towards the poor, the suffering and the marginalized of society? How do we treat them? Do we see them as nuisance and burdens to be scorned? Do we give them just a humanitarian and philanthropic service, or do we show them true charity and love? When last did you do charity? When we give so that we can get something in return like feeling good and edified, or so that people can praise us for our good deeds, that is selfishness. Charity which we are called to do on the contrary is selfless, modelled after the example of Christ in Philippians 2:6-11, where in order to save us, had to empty Himself assuming our flesh and He carried the cross to calvary to the point of offering His life in atonement for our sins without seeking self-glory.
Today that we celebrate Christ the King, we must remember that He cannot be King only on our lips without ruling our lives. That will be hypocrisy. He must first be King in our hearts so that He can rule our lives as our Shepherd King. It is in such hearts that Christ can find a true home to dwell and only then can He be King of our world. When we think of the poor we are thinking of Christ, and when we see them it is Christ we see. To touch them means that we are touching Christ since He dwells in them. And if we are kind to them we are being kind to Christ. Let us pray that He will touch our hearts to be moved into loving action and genuine care towards our neighbour especially the most vulnerable and less privileged of society, the poor and abused, the suffering and the marginalized, bearing in mind the teaching of St. Peter that charity covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.