November 26, 2017: Christ the King Sunday: Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe
Catholic Social Teaching: Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
“We need to build local communities of faith where our social teaching is central, not fringe; where social ministry is integral, not optional, where it is the work of every believer, not just the mission of a few committed people and committees.” In the Footsteps of Jesus: Resource Manual on Catholic Social Teaching, USCCB
First Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Psalm: 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6
Second Reading: 1st Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled “with power and great glory” by the King’s return to earth.This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ’s Passover. Until everything is subject to him, “until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God.” That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ’s return by saying to him:560 Marana tha! “Our Lord, come!” ( 671)
From the Daily Roman Missal, Introduction to Christ the King Sunday Cycle A
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:
Matthew 25:31-46 and Matthew 25:40 and 45
Human misery is a clear sign of man’s natural condition of frailty and of his need for salvation. Christ the Saviour showed compassion in this regard, identifying himself with the “least” among men (cf. Mt 25:40,45). “It is by what they have done for the poor that Jesus Christ will recognize his chosen ones. When ‘the poor have the good news preached to them’ (Mt 11:5), it is a sign of Christ’s presence”.
Jesus says: “You always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me” (Mt 26:11; cf. Mk 14:7; Jn 12:8). He makes this statement not to contrast the attention due to him with service of the poor. Christian realism, while appreciating on the one hand the praiseworthy efforts being made to defeat poverty, is cautious on the other hand regarding ideological positions and Messianistic beliefs that sustain the illusion that it is possible to eliminate the problem of poverty completely from this world. This will happen only upon Christ’s return, when he will be with us once more, for ever. In the meantime, the poor remain entrusted to us and it is this responsibility upon which we shall be judged at the end of time (cf. Mt 25:31-46): “Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren”. (183)
Matthew 34-36, 40
The good things — such as human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, all the good fruits of nature and of human enterprise — that in the Lord’s Spirit and according to his command have spread throughout the earth, having been purified of every stain, illuminated and transfigured, belong to the Kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, of love and of peace that Christ will present to the Father, and it is there that we shall once again find them. The words of Christ in their solemn truth will then resound for all people: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me … as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:34-36,40). (57)
The Fathers of the Church do not consider work as an “opus servile” — although the culture of their day maintained precisely that such was the case — but always as an “opus humanum”, and they tend to hold all its various expressions in honour. By means of work, man governs the world with God; together with God he is its lord and accomplishes good things for himself and for others. Idleness is harmful to man’s being, whereas activity is good for his body and soul. Christians are called to work not only to provide themselves with bread, but also in acceptance of their poorer neighbours, to whom the Lord has commanded them to give food, drink, clothing, welcome, care and companionship  (cf. Mt 25:35-36). Every worker, Saint Ambrose contends, is the hand of Christ that continues to create and to do good. (265)
Punishment does not serve merely the purpose of defending the public order and guaranteeing the safety of persons; it becomes as well an instrument for the correction of the offender, a correction that also takes on the moral value of expiation when the guilty party voluntarily accepts his punishment.There is a twofold purpose here. On the one hand, encouraging the re-insertion of the condemned person into society; on the other, fostering a justice that reconciles, a justice capable of restoring harmony in social relationships disrupted by the criminal act committed.
In this regard, the activity that prison chaplains are called to undertake is important, not only in the specifically religious dimension of this activity but also in defence of the dignity of those detained. Unfortunately, the conditions under which prisoners serve their time do not always foster respect for their dignity; and often, prisons become places where new crimes are committed. Nonetheless, the environment of penal institutions offers a privileged forum for bearing witness once more to Christian concern for social issues: “I was … in prison and you came to me” (Mt 25:35-36). (403)
The complete fulfillment of the human person, achieved in Christ through the gift of the Spirit, develops in history and is mediated by personal relationships with other people, relationships that in turn reach perfection thanks to the commitment made to improve the world, in justice and peace. Human activity in history is of itself significant and effective for the definitive establishment of the Kingdom, although this remains a free gift of God, completely transcendent. Such activity, when it respects the objective order of temporal reality and is enlightened by truth and love, becomes an instrument for making justice and peace ever more fully and integrally present, and anticipates in our own day the promised Kingdom.
Conforming himself to Christ the Redeemer, man perceives himself as a creature willed by God and eternally chosen by him, called to grace and glory in all the fullness of the mystery in which he has become a sharer in Jesus Christ. Being conformed to Christ and contemplating his face instill in Christians an irrepressible longing for a foretaste in this world, in the context of human relationships, of what will be a reality in the definitive world to come; thus Christians strive to give food, drink, clothing, shelter, care, a welcome and company to the Lord who knocks at the door (cf. Mt 25:35-37). (58)
1st Corinthians 15:20-28
Private and public property, as well as the various mechanisms of the economic system, must be oriented to an economy of service to mankind, so that they contribute to putting into effect the principle of the universal destination of goods. The issue of ownership and use of new technologies and knowledge — which in our day constitute a particular form of property that is no less important than ownership of land or capital — becomes significant in this perspective. These resources, like all goods, have a universal destination; they too must be placed in a context of legal norms and social rules that guarantee that they will be used according to the criteria of justice, equity and respect of human rights. The new discoveries and technologies, thanks to their enormous potential, can make a decisive contribution to the promotion of social progress; but if they remain concentrated in the wealthier countries or in the hands of a small number of powerful groups, they risk becoming sources of unemployment and increasing the gap between developed and underdeveloped areas. (383)
The entrance of Jesus Christ into the history of the world reaches its culmination in the Paschal Mystery, where nature itself takes part in the drama of the rejection of the Son of God and in the victory of his Resurrection (cf. Mt 27:45,51, 28:2). Crossing through death and grafting onto it the new splendour of the Resurrection, Jesus inaugurates a new world in which everything is subjected to him (cf. 1 Cor 15:20-28) and he creates anew those relationships of order and harmony that sin had destroyed. Knowledge of the imbalances existing between man and nature should be accompanied by an awareness that in Jesus the reconciliation of man and the world with God — such that every human being, aware of divine love, can find anew the peace that was lost — has been brought about. “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). Nature, which was created in the Word is, by the same Word made flesh, reconciled to God and given new peace (cf. Col 1:15-20). (454)
The Lord rescues his scattered sheep, seeking the lost, to give them rest by inheriting the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. A rest from reeling through endless ruses complicit with world gods laden with the weight of injustice, attempting to amass power and prestige, resting on flimsy foundations, toppled with changing winds of time. The market of commodities void of human threads. An environment lived like a scavenger hunt but resulting in empty hands.
Jesus proposes a kingdom structured on relationships. The human connection inspired by divine precepts and consolation ladden with generosity. Providing for the needs of others, especially the most vulnerable shows our allegiance to Jesus instead of markets, armaments and shrouds of nationalistic sovereignty. For he guides us in right paths for goodness and kindness to follow us all the days of our lives. If we serve others to address basic needs of human dignity and see the face of Jesus in those we serve, we acknowledge God is all in all. Not to give drink to the thirsty, no food to the hungry, unwelcoming to the stranger, no clothes for the naked, nor visit for the ill and imprisoned means our faith is hollow. Offering platitudes of prayers, saintly pseudo holiness of religiosity confined to the pews, double standards of sin all mock the Gospel. For Jesus says not once, but four times in succession our judgment rests not on X, Y or Z sin, but our compassionate humbleness to help those most in need. Then the focus of our Church should shed the burden of fighting culture wars, labeling enemies in society far and wide, to focus on Gospel imperatives Jesus invites us to undertake. There we no longer will be lost but find rest in our world today awaiting the eternal kingdom to come. Living in peace, for in service we cease having enemies, abandon power grasps, listen to needs instead of bombs dropping. With hearts focused on service to live the Gospel, we free Jesus from the monstrance and allow him who lives in us to be present in the world.
Individual Reflection: Matthew 25:31-46
In the Footsteps of Jesus is a USCCB resource manual for parish lesson plans, prayer services, program suggestions and bibliography on Catholic Social Teaching. How might you share this material with your parish to live the words of this week’s Gospel reading?
Family Reflection: Psalm 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6
Discuss how wants keep the Lord from being your shepherd.
Prayer: Adapted from Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer for Christ, King of the Universe
Lord we praise you for the immensity of your majestic, eternal and universal kingdom. Thank you for inviting us into your kingdom of truth and life. A kingdom of holiness and grace. A kingdom of justice, love and peace. May our actions proclaim your presence among us as we give drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, cloth the naked, welcome the strangest and visit those ill or imprisoned. Thank you for allowing us to see your face in the people we serve. Give us the courage to be vigilant against pseudo faith content to pray without action. Help to always see that the least among us deserve our utmost care to empower their human dignity. Thank you for being our shepherd, seeking us when we were lost and giving us rest from meaningless lives as we embrace your call to service in your Father’s kingdom. In Your name dear Jesus we pray, Amen.
Blogs to Visit:
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Creation sustainability ministry resources in the spirit of the St Francis Pledge.
Social Ministry Resources Engaging Parishes: Monthly and liturgical seasons resources for use with parish websites, bulletins and newsletters
List one or two upcoming events, legislative action alerts or social justice websites
By Barb Born November14, 2017 The reflection maybe used in parish bulletins, newsletters or for faith sharing groups without copyright concern.