Citizens of His Kingdom
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Year A)
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'”Matthew 25:34
Next Sunday we begin the season of Advent and the new liturgical year; but we end the year with the great Solemnity of Christ the King, celebrated on the final Sunday in Ordinary Time. It is fitting to end our annual liturgical cycle with a reminder of Who is in charge. We celebrate Christ’s coming in Advent (which means “coming”), and Christ came to inaugurate the kingdom of God. That kingdom now is here, though it won’t come to full fruition until the Second Coming when “everything will be subjected to him” and “God will be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).
Our readings for this Sunday tell us a great deal about God’s kingdom and how we are to live as faithful citizens of it.
When we think of a “king” today, our minds often go to powerful tyrants. Jesus is powerful, but he is no tyrant. His reign is unlike the reign of any king on earth (although saintly kings like St. Louis or St. Wenseslaus came the closest). Our first reading from Ezekiel describes our king as a shepherd who tends to his sheep, rescuing the lost and healing the injured. Our King doesn’t rule over us like a dictator; he cares for us like a father.
This is echoed in our Psalm, which says if the Lord is our shepherd, there is nothing we shall want! Psalm 23 is the most beloved of all the psalms, because it is the most comforting. Our king and shepherd never leads us astray, but guides us in right paths. He doesn’t leave us hungry, but spreads his table before us. He never leaves us thirsty, but fills our cup to overflowing. He doesn’t leave us weary, but gives us rest and repose. What a gracious king we have!
But how do we become part of his kingdom? One way to become a citizen of a country is to be born there; the way to become a citizen of God’s kingdom is to be reborn. During the College Discipleship Retreat several of our students attended last weekend, we discussed the passage in Revelation 21 where the Lamb (Jesus) says, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5). That passage speaks of a “new heavens and new earth” where God will reign for ever. To dwell in that new earth, we must also be made new.
We are made new creatures by God’s grace through the sacraments of initiation. In baptism we are born again. In confirmation we receive a new Spirit, the Spirit of adoption (cf. Rom 8:15) as sons and daughters of God. In the Eucharist we are fed by our King’s own Body and Blood, a foretaste of the wedding feast he has prepared for us in heaven. It’s so fitting that on this Sunday of Christ the King, at the 11:30 AM Mass at St. Mary’s, one of our students, Izzy Broman-Fulks, will receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist, participating fully for the first time in God’s kingdom banquet.
But it’s not enough to simply be born into God’s kingdom. We have to live as faithful citizens. We have to follow the rules. And the number one rule in God’s kingdom is to “love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). Our gospel reveals that when he comes again in glory, Christ our King will judge us according to how we have lived by that rule.
He will separate us out, as sheep from goats. Those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, welcomed the stranger, and visited the sick and imprisoned, will hear those blessed words, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34). Those who did not do those things. . . well, let’s just say being a GOAT is not a good thing in this instance.
In this season of Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks that we have so great a King who cares for us, and who makes us worthy to be citizens of his kingdom. We can show that gratitude by living according to the kingdom law of love.