The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Matthew 25: 31-46
Then addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi. ‘You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will exalted.’
Members remain standing while the Gospel is read. After the Gospel is read, members kiss the Gospel and are seated. After an appropriate period of reflection, members are invited to share their own lights from the Holy Spirit in relation to this Gospel passage. The secretary synthesizes reflections into a brief summary for the team.
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The Better Part
Consider privately reflecting on the corresponding chapter from The Better Part by Fr. John Bartunek, LC, ThD during the week.
Unit #79 – “Cheat Sheet” – Matthew 25: 31-46
“I beg you, join with me in love. Run with me in faith. Let us yearn for our heavenly home. Let us sigh for it. Let us realize that we are strangers here below.” St Augustine
Christ as Lord
Jesus Christ makes an unambiguous claim to universal authority. All the nations of the world will come before him to be judged; all the angels make up his royal court; he holds in his hands the eternal destiny of every man and woman of all time. This passage leaves no room for us to wonder about who Christ really is: either he is the Lord of life and history as he claims to be, or he is a lunatic, and the testimony of the Church throughout the last twenty centuries (first of all its mere longevity, but also the contribution of wisdom and holiness it has made to human culture) eliminates the lunatic option. Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords; he alone is the Holy One and the Most High, as we proclaim every Sunday when we sing the Gloria at Mass. He is worthy of our allegiance.
Yet, once again he shows that his lordship is not only grand and majestic, but intimate and accessible. He is a King who identifies himself with each one of his subjects. In fact, he is present in every person. His love is so total, so unabashed, so reckless, that it propels his own self into every human heart. In a mysterious way, he dwells in each one of us. The revolution that this Lord proclaims happens every time we act in accordance with this amazing truth.
Christ as Teacher
He is also the most generous of teachers. At the end of life we all have to take a final exam, the only exam that really matters. Christ is the examiner, and in this passage he gives us ahead of time not only the questions on the exam, but also the answers.
This lesson uncovers the most precious truth of all, the pearl of great price that men and women have searched for since the very beginning: the meaning of life. In the end, all that will matter is what we have done for Christ and our neighbor. We will not be asked how much money we made, how many awards we won, how famous we became, how many discoveries we made, how many achievements we accomplished, how much we enjoyed ourselves, or how many people we had working under us. We will be asked one question: what did you do for me in your neighbor? Christ teaches us repeatedly in the Gospels, by word and example, that the secret to happiness in this life and the life to come is self-giving, self-forgetful love, serving the spiritual and material needs of our brothers and sisters, through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ. Only self-giving – the mark of authentic love – counteracts the epidemic of self-centeredness, self-indulgence, and self-sufficiency that has scourged the human family ever since the fall.
This third parable specifically references the final judgment at the Second Coming, after the destruction of the cosmos and the end of history. The parable of the Bridesmaids had applied more directly to the destruction of Jerusalem in the Apostolic age, and that of the Talents focused in on the experience of the individual soul at the moment of death. With this one, Jesus completes his briefing to the Apostles about what the future has in store.
Christ as Friend
Our God does not sit idly by as we struggle through life, waiting to pass judgment on all our failings. True, judgment will come, because God is fair, but Jesus Christ does all he can to prepare each of us ahead of time. In the first place, he came to earth; he became one of us, so that he could teach us using words and actions that we would understand. Secondly, he stays with us “until the end of time” (Matthew 28:20) through the ministry of his Church. The Church makes his teachings ring out in every age and place, constantly reminding us of the gospel’s saving truths; through her the Holy Spirit vivifies the sacraments in order to bring each of her children into intimate friendship with God; above all, through her Christ stays literally at our side in the Eucharist, accompanying us patiently and lovingly in every tabernacle throughout the world. In this way, he hopes to make the Last Judgment a joyful reunion of intimate friends, not a surprise encounter between hostile strangers.
Christ in my Life
I know you ascended in heaven after your resurrection, Lord. I know that you are there now, interceding for me and guiding your Church through the Holy Spirit. And yet, you tell me that you are still present in my heart, and in the hearts of all my brothers and sisters here on earth. I can never grasp this truth by my own smarts. Teach me, Lord. May your grace open the eyes of my soul to see you as you really are”
How could you have been clearer? You care about how I treat my neighbor, what I do for those around me. It seems so burdensome to live with my attention focused on others. I have so many needs, desires, and dreams of my own! But what matters most is not what I do, but who I am. Am I someone who loves, who gives, who serves? Self-giving is the one law of heaven. If I can’t learn to obey it now, I won’t ever want to obey it later”
In the end, you will make all things right. All the injustice and misery of the world will not escape your goodness and your power. I believe that you will come again, to judge, to rule, to set things right. You wouldn’t have promised it if you weren’t planning on doing it. Help me to prepare for that day, and to help everyone around me prepare as well”
Questions for Discussion
1. What struck you most about this passage? What did you notice that you hadn’t noticed before?
2. According to this parable, the standard by which we will all be judged has to do with what each person failed to do, with sins of omission. How do sins of commission (murder, adultery, etc”) fit into this picture?
3. Why is Jesus so interested in how we treat our neighbor?
4. What aspects of popular culture help us live out the ethic Jesus propounds in this parable? What aspects don’t?