The Solemnity of Christ the King

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

Central idea: The king of the kingdom of God. Doctrine: The kingdom of God and the last judgment. Practical application: Living today with the end in mind.

Lectionary 160.

Central idea: The king of the kingdom of God

Reading 1: Ez 34:11-12, 15-17

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.

As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD,
I will judge between one sheep and another,
between rams and goats.

  • The good shepherd is an image of the good leader, ultimately the good king. In this oracle, the LORD declares that He will be the shepherd of his Chosen People. This oracle is fulfilled in Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
  • This good shepherd will set to work immediately and will continue without stop until he has re-gathered the flock and restored each animal to health. This is fulfilled in Christ’s work to save and sanctify us.
  • But why will God destroy the sleek and strong? The reason is that they only looked out for themselves. They either gave no thought to or actually harmed the weaker members of the flock who were lost, injured, or sick. This judgment against bad people will be fulfilled when Christ returns.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose.

Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

  • For the person who can say, “The LORD is my shepherd,” there is no fear in Christ’s return. Rather, there is great joy, for Christ returns to look after the person as a shepherd looks after a sheep who knows his need of a shepherd.
  • The smart sheep knows he needs a shepherd. We, too, need God to find, save, guard, and guide us, because by our own powers we cannot defeat the forces of temptation, sin, suffering, and death arrayed against us.

Reading 2 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28

Brothers and sisters:
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through man,
the resurrection of the dead came also through man.
For just as in Adam all die,
so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
but each one in proper order:
Christ the firstfruits;
then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;
then comes the end,
when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father,
when he has destroyed every sovereignty
and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
When everything is subjected to him,
then the Son himself will also be subjected
to the one who subjected everything to him,
so that God may be all in all.

  • In the Lord’s Prayer, Christ instructs us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In this reading, St. Paul is describing how the kingdom of God will become universal.
    • The first fruits of the “harvest” is Christ’s resurrection from the dead, which has occurred.
    • Then at his second coming all who belong to him will rise from the dead. They are already subject to him. They have become subject to him by the way they have lived.
    • Then, like a warrior king, Christ will conquer “every sovereignty and every authority and power” which is opposed to him, “enemies” of which death the last and greatest.
    • Then when everything is subjected to Christ, Christ will subject himself to God the Father “so that God may be all in all.”
      • God is not all in all now because there is so much resistance to him. God now permits this rebellion out of respect for our freedom.
      • What will it be like when God is “all in all,” when everything is “subject” to God’s will? God’s “reign is a dynamic exercise of creative power, an outpouring of life and energy through the universe, with no further resistance. This is the supremely positive meaning of ‘subjection’: that God may fully be God” (N.A.B. footnote 1 Cor 15:28).

Gospel Mt 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by 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,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”

  • In Ezekiel’s vision, there are some people who are sleek and strong while their fellow men are lost, in need of rescuing, hungry, tired, injured, and sick. In that prophecy, God himself will tend to those in need, while he will “destroy” the sleek and strong.
  • It must be that God negatively judges the sleek and strong because they did nothing for their brothers in need when they could have. This comes into focus in the parable of the sheep and the goats. Those of us who do nothing for the hungry, thirsty, naked, ill, and imprisoned will be condemned while those who do something for them will have eternal life.
  • Most broadly, if you love your neighbor, giving what you are able to give that he needs, you are helping God’s kingdom come and you “belong to Christ.”

Doctrine: The kingdom of God and the Last Judgment

  • When we pray, thy kingdom come, “the Church looks first to Christ’s return and the final coming of the Reign of God. It also prays for the growth of the Kingdom of God in the ‘today’ of our own lives.” (CCC 2859)
  • When we pray, thy will be done, “we ask our Father to unite our will to that of his Son, so as to fulfill his plan of salvation in the life of the world” (CCC 2860).
  • “Christ the Lord already reigns through the Church, but all the things of this world are not yet subjected to him” (CCC 680).
  • “On Judgment Day at the end of the world, Christ will come in glory to achieve the definitive triumph of good over evil which . . . have grown up together in the course of history” (CCC 681).
  • “When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace” (CCC 682).

Practical application: Living today with the end in mind

  • The Catechism tells us that “In the Lord’s Prayer, ‘thy kingdom come’ refers primarily to the final coming of the reign of God through Christ’s return.” Does this mean that the faithful just sit back and wait?
  • “[F]ar from distracting the Church from her mission in this present world, this desire [to see the kingdom of God on earth] commits her to [this mission] all the more strongly” (CCC 2818). This is why the Church never stops proclaiming the Gospel, teaching Christian faith and morals, and providing the Sacraments. This is why every lay member of the faithful should take seriously the call to be an evangelist, which presupposes knowing and living the faith. Thus, because we want God’s kingdom to come, we know, live, and speak to others about Catholic faith and morals.
  • The Catechism goes on to explain how we cannot really say, “Thy kingdom come” unless we live the faith and its demands.
  • “‘The kingdom of God [is] righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.’ The end-time in which we live is the age of the outpouring of the Spirit. Ever since Pentecost, a decisive battle has been joined between ‘the flesh’ and the Spirit.” As St. Cyril of Jerusalem taught, “Only a pure soul can boldly say: ‘Thy kingdom come.’ One who has heard Paul say, ‘Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies,’ and has purified himself in action, thought, and word will say to God: ‘Thy kingdom come!’” (2819)
  • Thus, we cannot evangelize unless we are engaged in the personal battle between God’s will and our own often disordered passions.
  • To use the image of Christ as the Warrior-King, we are soldiers in Christ’s army fighting to subdue creation to him so it can be turned over to the Father. But the enemy we fight is our own selves!
  • Similar to our concern to advance the kingdom of God on earth now, the Church reminds us that “By a discernment according to the Spirit, Christians have to distinguish between the growth of the Reign of God and the progress of the culture and society in which they are involved.” Progress in the kingdom of God is not the same as economic, cultural, medical, technological, or scientific progress. However, this distinction is not a separation. “Man’s vocation to eternal life does not suppress, but actually reinforces, his duty” to contribute to “the progress of the culture and society in which” he lives. Thus we have the “duty to put into action in this world the energies and means received from the Creator to serve justice and peace.” (CCC 2820) Laypersons should be especially excited to contribute to human progress in the temporal order through their work, whatever it is.
  • This is precisely what the Second Vatican Council taught about the lay vocation. “The laity have the principal role in the overall fulfillment of this duty. Therefore, by their competence in secular training and by their activity, elevated from within by the grace of Christ, let them vigorously contribute their effort, so that created goods may be perfected by human labor, technical skill and civic culture for the benefit of all men according to the design of the Creator and the light of His Word.  . . .  In this manner, through the members of the Church, will Christ progressively illumine the whole of human society with His saving light.” (Lumen Gentium 36)
    • Thus, we lay members of Christ’s faithful want to do our secular work as well as we can, and get better and better at it, in loving service to anyone who can benefit from it.
  • To summarize, we want to become personally transformed into the image of Christ. As a consequence, we can more effectively advance both the temporal and eternal orders.

The Homiletic Directory recommends the following Catechism points and themes for the Solemnity of Christ the King:

  • CCC 440, 446-451, 668-672, 783, 786, 908, 2105, 2628: Christ as Lord and King
  • CCC 678-679, 1001, 1038-1041: Christ as Judge
  • CCC 2816-2821: “Thy Kingdom Come”







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