November 26, 2023 –
Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe [Year A]

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Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17  +  1 Corinthians 15:20-26,28  +  Matthew 25:31-46

“… all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another ….”

If a poll were taken this month asking, “Do you like the fact that it’s now getting dark in the late afternoon?”, most of us would quickly respond, “No!”  Yet we know that the descent of darkness and diminishing days are a natural part of the year’s cycle.  With Winter’s approach, the leaves on our trees are dying, animals need shelter, and the influence of the sun weakens.

As the end of the year closes in upon us, part of us rebels.  We don’t like the darkness, cold, and death that we experience.  Yet we know that death is natural.  Death is part of life.

Death and life go hand-in-hand.  That truth is part of what the Church proclaims on the Solemnity of Christ the King.  The feast of Christ the King is the last Sunday of the Church year.  The Church year itself dies this week, so to speak.  Next Sunday a new year begins in order to help us celebrate the birth of God made man.

Yet while Advent—the first season of the Church year—focuses upon the birth of God as man in this world, the last Sunday of the year—today’s Solemnity of Christ the King—focuses upon the Last Judgment, the means by which fallen and redeemed man can be borne body and soul into eternal life.  At the Last Judgment Jesus will hold up our lives to His.

At the Last Judgment, Christ the King will call all the peoples of all the nations throughout the course of history to Himself, and judge each person one-by-one.  If you ever thought the line for confessions during Holy Week was long, just imagine what this line is going to look like!

Of course, time in the afterlife is not quite like time experienced on earth.  Nonetheless, as we wait in that line, we might think that we’ll never reach the front.  We might think that our time will never come.  This is similar to how many of us lead our lives on earth:  as if we will never die and never be judged.

In the midst of this wait, we are blessed in that we have the words of Christ to give us some idea about what this judgment will be like.  Did you ever have a teacher who gave you quizzes (or even worse, tests) without giving you any idea what you were going to be examined on?  Have you ever had to come up for an evaluation at work without any idea about what part of your performance would be scrutinized?  Not knowing makes the experience all the more difficult.

While we’re blessed to know what our final judgment will look like, this blessing is a two-edged sword.  Because we have heard the Gospel proclaimed, we’ll never be able to say that we didn’t know what God asked from us, and how our faith was meant to shape our earthly days.  Jesus makes it very clear that whether we will be admitted into the Kingdom of God depends in large measure upon whether or not the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy were the measure by which we sought to love Christ the King in our needing neighbor.

The Last Judgment by Jan Provoost (c. 1462-1529)