SFX Bulletin, 23 November 2014 City-dwellers like us may find it difficult to relate to today’s Solemnity which presents Jesus as King. “Kings” are almost historical due in part to the domination style of leadership. Jesus’ Kingship, however, is different. It is more like the tender zealous love of the Shepherd for his sheep as described in the first reading from the prophet Ezekiel.
In the prophecy given through Ezekiel, the shepherd loves and cares for his sheep so much that he is not afraid of the watchfulness needed, “I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view”; his sheep are so dear to him that he would risk his life to rescue them, “I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered…”; he is zealous for their well-being, “I myself will pasture my sheep…”; he wants to restore every single sheep that had been hurt while it had wandered off, “I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong” (Ez.34:11-16).
Jesus’ kingship is not aloof and distant but personal and zealously protective like the shepherd of Ezekiel’s prophecy. It is a shepherd-kingship to which we can entrust ourselves – hurts, foolishness, regrets, wounds and all. When we allow Jesus to find us, his concern is to bandage our wounds and make us strong – restore our confidence in ourselves and in him so that we may experience joy in being in his sheepfold. We experience all this in a real way when we sincerely participate in the sacraments of the church – seeking forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and being one again with Christ in the Eucharist. The sheepfold, being one of the symbols of the church, is, in this sense how we are made whole again (CCC754).
How can we be so sure of not being rejected by Jesus for allowing ourselves to be lured away - get “lost” or “scattered” by our fears? Today’s second reading gives us that assurance. Jesus died on the cross for us so that “all men will be brought to life in him” (1 Cor. 15:22). St. Paul tells us that our weaknesses and sinfulness, which lead to death, were transmitted to us by the first man, Adam, but now, through Jesus’ willing acceptance of crucifixion, “in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man” (1 Cor. 15:21). To better grasp this mystery requires prayerful contemplation of our own sinful nature and a contrite heart to welcome the redemptive sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The Catechism says that when we are baptised in Christ, “in a way known to God”, we become partners in Christ’s paschal mystery through his “incarnate divine person” (CCC618).
This partnership with Jesus to which we have been honoured calls for a new life-style – one in which we try to be Jesus to others especially the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick and imprisoned (cf. Mt. 25:35-36; 42-43). The Catechism lists these as spiritual and corporal works of mercy that please God (CCC2447). Ignoring those in need, in fact, becomes a curse one has put on oneself because one has not only prolonged the suffering of the needy but also rejected the Spirit’s prompting to act and grow in justice and charity (cf. Mt.25:41).
The commandment to care for each other and to uphold love has existed for all time – it is universal. Throughout history, God has given man laws (Ten Commandments) and sent prophets to guide and exhort man to live up to this calling (CCC2449). Through the Eucharist, we now receive the power to love with the tender zealous love of Jesus. In actualizing this capacity for self-giving love, we will come to see with joy the promised power of Christ in us. We will also grow in humble awareness of our own limitations in not partnering Christ. This joyful encounter must propel us to desire that others welcome Jesus’ Lordship and Kingship - because it is through him, with him and in him alone that we can authentically love both God and neighbor.