The phrase, "to judge the living and the dead" comes from our Creed, but has its origins in scriptures like this Sunday's Gospel. It reminds us that God alone determines our fate after death, but that fate is also determined by our own choices in life... our free will to follow a path of righteousness or selfishness. In one of Jesus' final sermons to his Apostles (a continuation from last week's Gospel), Jesus gives us concrete examples to follow.
The Word for Christ the King
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Psalm 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Our first reading comes Ezekiel, the exiled priest who found his prophetic voice in Babylon. At a time where the exiled Jewish community is feeling abandoned by God, Ezekiel is called to bring a message of hope. He speaks of God as a shepherd who seeks to bring back his lost sheep. It’s a powerful image that we Christians easily recognize from Jesus’ teachings. This message of the caring shepherd is echoed in our Psalm as we hear again those memorable strains of Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.
Our second reading is from Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians. Here Paul explains that just as humanity fell from grace through Adam, eternal life was brought back to humanity through Christ. Through his death and resurrection he has the power to defeat God’s enemies, and as everything becomes subject to Christ, Christ in turn becomes subject to his Father… “so that God may be all in all.”
Our Gospel, unique to Matthew, presents us with Jesus’ final teaching before the events that lead to his passion and death. Subtitled “the Judgment of the Nations,” Jesus transports us to a scene at the end of time where he explains that whatever we have done to the least his brothers, we have done it to him. This final teaching of the last judgment reminds us that we not only have a duty to server our fellow man, but how well and how completely we follow this teaching will be how we are judged worthy in Christ’s eyes at the end of days. It’s a powerful and poetic teaching which serves as a constant reminder that our duty to Christ is in fact a duty to serve others. That we will not only be judged on our faith in Christ, but how we live out that faith.
The celebration of Christ the King marks the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year. Although being one of the newest feast days on the Church calendar, having been established by Pope Pius XI in 1925, its importance in the life of Christians should not be overlooked nor taken lightly.
The Feast Day was established by Pope Pius’ encyclical Quas Primas, (In the First), which establishes Jesus as our King. For 21st century Americans, as well as most modern democratic societies, the meaning and importance of this Feast can easily be lost without understanding the context from which it originated. Since the end of the Great War, Europe, both economically and politically, was in shambles. The long established monarchies from Europe and through to the Far East were being challenged by popular uprisings, only to be replaced by equally dangerous movements fueled by nationalism and fascism.
Amid this turmoil, The Holy See saw the need to remind the Church that we owed our allegiance not to any temporal or political authority, but only to Christ. This idea of Christ as King of All, having been well established in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, served to remind the world that we are bound to a higher authority.