FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (A)
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17 | Psalm 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6 | 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28 | Matthew 25:31-46
The solemnity of Christ the King should be an occasion for us, the Catholic Church in the Philippines, to remember a power that transcends the party politics of a heavily divided nation.
A man dies and goes to heaven. As he arrives there an angel is waiting for him to give him a
tour. They enter through the golden gates and go inside a big bright building. There were a big number of clocks running at different speeds and the man was puzzled. He asked the angel what they were. The angel said: "Here are the clocks of every country, they measure corruption. The more corrupt the country is the faster it's clock goes!" Amazed, the man wanders around the room but he notices something and asks the angel: "Where is the Philippine clock?" And the angel says: "Oh, God is using it as a cooling fan!"
We can learn from our first reading that God does not tolerate the suffering of his people because of poor leadership. During the Babylonian Exile (586 BCE), Ezekiel criticizes harshly the leaders of the chosen people because they are failing to serve the poor and the weak, the vulnerable. They're taking care of themselves and letting the people drift away. They created the dolomite fiasco to cover up the P15-Billion fraud at Philhealth. Despite facing a criminal complaint for having previously violated quarantine rules, one managed to bag a promotion as top cop. While a series of typhoons was devastating parts of the country, our leaders were just sleeping in the mosquito net, singing Karaoke songs and enjoying a birthday getaway. Because of corrupt, incompetent and neglectful leaders, God's people wander about without direction, live in chaos, are defenseless, and prone to danger. Ezekiel promises them that God will do something about it. God himself will look after and tend his sheep. The lost he will seek out. He himself will give rest to the flock.
In one of his lighter moments, Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, penned his own epitaph. It seems he must have been influenced by Paul’s teaching of the resurrection of the body. Here’s what he wrote: “The body of Benjamin Franklin, printer, like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out, and striped of its lettering and binding, lies here, food for worms. But the work shall not be wholly lost: for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new and more perfect edition, corrected and amended by the Author.”
In the second reading, the apostle Paul reassures the faithful in Corinth about resurrection and the final union with God and Christ which awaits them in the future. He presents Christ as the all-powerful ruler-king who raises the dead and to whom every form of power and authority must eventually give way. In other words, the mission of the Christ as King is two fold: to give us eternal life by raising us from death, thus undoing the primary consequence of the first Adam’s sin, and to subject all cosmic powers to himself, and then to God his Father.
Miriam died and was being given a tour of heaven when she saw her friend Gina driving a beautiful Mercedes. And she said, “This is great!” “Oh, yes,” St. Peter said, “your friend Gina was really generous on earth, we had a lot to work with. Your transportation up here depends on your generosity down there.” Then Peter gave her her new ride: A Toyota Vios. She said, “Wait a minute, she gets a Mercedes, I get a sedan?” “That’s right, it’s all we had to work with.” Miriam drove off in a huff. A week later Peter saw Miriam all smiles and said, “You feeling better now?” She said, “Yeah, I have ever since I saw our president go by on a skate board!”
Today's discourse on the end time in the Gospel of Matthew is a description of the final judgment under the figure of a king-shepherd who sorts the good and bad animals in his flock. All will be judged by God and the criteria of that judgement are most striking. They are the simple acts of love and kindness directed to the "little ones" in this world. The sheep are the ones who cared for the sick, the hungry, those in prison, and so forth. The goats did the opposite – they did not care for the ones in front of them. These months of the pandemic and natural disasters have highlighted the desperate need of the poor, and those newly impoverished by loss of jobs, homes, businesses and lives. Jesus directs us Christians today, even if our resources are limited, to ask ourselves: What can we share with those Jesus so powerfully identifies with in today’s parable? To have done our part in reaching out to the needy is to have touched Jesus himself; to have neglected to do them is to have neglected the needs of Christ. Today’s feast of Christ the King offers a lesson in power as humility. Greatness in God's eyes is seen through humble service. If one already has the machinery of government, emergency powers and intelligence funds at his disposal, how can he still feel insecure? One must stop discouraging people from helping the needy by destroying someone else's reputation to cover up his lack of urgency and utter incompetence. This Feast leaves us with a challenge. As we put our lives together with our sisters and brothers throughout the world, may the words of mystic St. Teresa of Ávila ring in our hearts on this great Feast: “Christ has no body now, but yours; no hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world." <enrique,ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum