Although having kings and queens as rulers of our country may seem foreign to us, our encouragement from the Church this weekend is to use the image to enhance our participation in the work of God in our daily lives. We know through our study of history that some kings and queens were ruthless and selfish. They used the people of their realm and the resources of the land to further their own selfish power and influence. They would favor those who did things the way they wanted them to and punished those who did not. We also have some examples of kings and queens, although given much personal power, who used their power to help as many people as they could and further the good graces of their realm. When we use the image of Christ, the King, we are clear about what kind of king He is.
Notice the description from the prophet Ezekiel of a shepherd king. He seeks the lost and brings them back. He protects the flock in times of danger, even laying down his life for their sake. He comforts those who are wounded and heals those who are sick. Who wouldn’t want a king like that?
From St. Paul we hear that Christ, the King, will put all enemies under His feet, even death. All will be brought to life and given the gift that comes from faithful living and the mercy of God. But the king reminds us that we will be held accountable for the life that we lead. Notice that the focus is not on acting holy in holy places, and kissing the king’s robes whenever we are directly in his presence. We are held accountable for how we act toward the most powerless of the king’s subjects. How is that going for you?
Most of us know how to behave in holy places. We know that church is a place of reverence and respect, and so we genuflect, bow, fold our hands, pray our prayers and act as a community of faith. But what of the times when we are outside of the official holy places? What about the times that we encounter those listed in the Gospel? Many of us excuse ourselves from the respectful and reverent behavior when we encounter Jesus in the hungry and thirsty, the sick and imprisoned, the naked and the stranger. We feel freer to not genuflect and bow in reverence toward these most special in the Kingdom of God. We feel freer to judge and decide if a person deserves food and clothing, a home and shelter, healing and belonging. We often blame the very people who Jesus says are His presence to us.
As we look forward to the start of another Church year and a fresh start on Advent, what would it be like to actually notice Jesus in the most vulnerable in our towns and cities? What would it be like if we imagined ourselves reverencing the person of Jesus in every poor and lowly person we see and meet? How might we be enriched by choosing to be in relationship with those who are mentioned in the Gospel? One thing is for sure, we will be looked on with favor by the king who comes to judge between the sheep and the goats!
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.