November 23, 2014: Christ the King Sunday
Catholic Social Teaching: Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
Themes from Catholic Social Teaching, USCCB
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) Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
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: Maranatha! “Our Lord, come!”
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, 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” (Mt26:11; 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 25:34-36, 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 fulfilment 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 instil 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
The Church proclaims that Christ, the conqueror of death, reigns over the universe that he himself has redeemed. His kingdom includes even the present times and will end only when everything is handed over to the Father and human history is brought to completion in the final judgment (cf. 1 Cor 15:20-28). Christ reveals to human authority, always tempted by the desire to dominate, its authentic and complete meaning as service. God is the one Father, and Christ the one Teacher, of all mankind, and all people are brothers and sisters. Sovereignty belongs to God. The Lord, however, “has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence”.
The biblical message provides endless inspiration for Christian reflection on political power, recalling that it comes from God and is an integral part of the order that he created. This order is perceived by the human conscience and, in social life, finds its fulfilment in the truth, justice, freedom and solidarity that bring peace. (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)
To live the words of Matthew 25, is to live our faith maturely. We must open our eyes to see the world with a gaze beyond ourselves. A faith not rooted in works as a bridge to salvation, but to manifest the love Christ has given us, through loving service for others. In early texts, the word used for goat was kid—a young goat lacking maturity. A sheep while related to a goat is stockier, timid and defenseless. Attributes of a mature faith trustfully realizing only with Christ living within us, in surrender of our own will, do we inherit the Kingdom of God. Life lived so life is a prayer and service is a devotion.
How will we stretch ourselves beyond the literal meaning of feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the ill and visiting those in prison, into the deep reality of the metaphors. Who do we see famished by spiritual hunger? How might we help nourish their soul? What people in society are thirsty for acceptance and equality? Will we sooth their parched yearning with inclusive love? Are people strangers in our own families? Will we welcome them, instead of silent shuns of condemnation? Will we cloth people exposed and vulnerable by economic exploitation with acts of justice? Can we care for people made pawns in acts of aggression? Who are people locked in prisons of loneliness, the elderly, the mentally ill? Will we visit them to affirm their dignity? All questions we must ask each day, as we explore the metaphors to stretch our souls, our understanding of God’s love and our interconnectedness in humanity. In affirmation of trusting the Lord to guide us on right paths for his name’s sake, we must be attentive, not isolated from the world with limited horizons. For then we lose sight of God that seeks us out and how He rescued us from the darkness of self-absorption. A blessing in realizing our own strength and self-perceived sleekness is only a vehicle on an expressway leaving the Kingdom of God in the rear view mirror, as it fastly fades from view.
Jesus repeats the discourse four times. An emphasis to affirm that to dwell in the house of the Lord, where goodness and kindness flows from our actions, is rooted in service to the least among us. He finds himself among us, the scattered sheep and with compassion, not judgment, seeks to gather us and refresh our souls. So our cup overflows with His mercy and love and we share the blessings with our loving, freely given service
Individual Reflection: Psalm 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6
Visit the website of artist John August Swanson and reflect upon his Psalm 23 serigraph. http://www.johnaugustswanson.com/default.cfm?PID=1.2.28
Family Reflection: Matthew 25:31-46
As your family prepares for the beginning of Advent next Sunday, make an advent wreath, not out of customary greens, but collect objects and pictures that reflect the words of Matthew 25 and place them in a circle. As your family lights a candle each day, pray how you might offer loving service to the least among you and let the Holy Spirit guide your acts of service.
Lord, in the words of Matthew 25 thank you for showing us your love. For it is such grace that you desire us not to be absorbed in ourselves, but inherit your Kingdom. Help us to see with eyes beyond rhetoric, religiosity and rigidity, to love as you love, care as you care and manifest that faith in service given freely in love, not with sense of duty. For this we pray in your dear name Lord, Amen.
Blogs to Visit: http://marynow.wordpress.com/
As we reflect upon Mary’s presence in the mysteries of the Rosary, we are blessed to know her. For her journey, a timeless trek, calls us to surrender, continuing conversion, humbleness and justice now. https://peaceonjustice.wordpress.com/
Weekly lectionary reflections, for faith sharing groups, parish bulletins, newsletters or personal prayer, from the synergy of the Word we hear and the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching. https://cst74life.wordpress.com/
Catholic Social Teaching offers seven principles for upholding life in our thoughts, decisions and actions. http://idocst.wordpress.com/
How we do Catholic Social Teaching. https://csmresources.wordpress.com/
Creation sustainability ministry resources in the spirit of the St Francis Pledge.
List one or two upcoming events, legislative action alerts or social justice websites
By Barb Born November 11, 20142014 The reflection maybe used in parish bulletins, newsletters or for faith sharing groups without copyright