Sunday Scripture Readings

Solemnity of our Lord

Jesus Christ the King,

November 24

Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; Psalm 23;

1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46

OUR GOOD NEWS: Christ, King of all human beings, commands us to mutual caring. Jesus' description of end-time judgment is intended not as a detailed scenario of what will happen but as instruction on how to live our lives now. The suffering and humiliated earthly Son of Man now reigns within his Church, but apparently absent from history. His future return is described in standard Old Testament apocalyptic imagery: "glory" (divinity made visible), "escorting angels, royal throne, (assembly of) all nations." Final judgment, elsewhere always reserved to God, will be exercised by Christ. Surprisingly absent are customary bizarre descriptions and fantastic speculations about rewards and punishment. Jesus likewise omits standard norms for salvation or condemnation, such as membership in the chosen race, fidelity to Mosaic law, or martyrdom in holy wars against unbelievers. He will consult no Book of Life (computer printout?) to tabulate merits and deviations. Instead, separation will be child's play, as simple as a shepherd's evening sorting of mixed flock. Anyone can tell "sheep" from "goats"! The list of deeds for which "sheep" will be rewarded are repeated, litany-like, four times for emphasis and solemnity. Isaiah 61:1-2 predicted reversal of such troubles in the messianic age, a passage Jesus proclaimed fulfilled in his own mission (Lk 4:18). Nevertheless, hunger, poverty, refugees and the barbaric criminal justice system which plagued the ancient world also make the daily TV news. He who during earthly life associated with public sinners now identifies in risen but distant glory with every sort of human misery, present to be encountered and served in all who suffer. Note too that these mediators of Christ are significantly not identified as Christians, or as sinless, God-fearing and "deserving." Recent scholarship tends to agree on the universal dimension of this passage. Jesus will return as cosmic Lord to judge all humankind, pagans as well as Christians. Those who never heard the Good News will be saved or condemned for how they reacted to Christ hidden among them in the needy. Every single person without exception is offered salvation through Jesus and will appear before him for final judgment. Agnostics and atheists will be judged for what they did to ameliorate suffering. Any love or service we would like to show Jesus can be performed by meeting needs of neighbors and distant foreigners. Firm faith in Christ as sovereign Lord and vigilant hope of his end-time return must be expressed through active, gracious and determined concern for the real welfare of all human beings, without exception.

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