THE SHEPHERD-KING (34TH SUNDAY, YEAR A: SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING)

By: Fr. Sylvanus E. AMEH

Readings: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; Psalm 23; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46

The 1920s saw a rise in nationalism and secularism. There was an increased rejection of religion and religious influences. Society rejected God more and more, and this trend was creeping into the Church. There was therefore, the danger of having a secularized Church.

To curtail this, Pope Pius XI established the Feast of Christ the King in 1925 in his encyclical, Quas Primas. One of the principal goals of the Feast was (and still is) to remind the Church and the world that all power belongs to and comes from God in Christ Jesus. Scripture says “For in Him were all things created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities” (Col 1:16). The Feast of Christ the King thus reminds us that God is our true ruler and we must all submit our hearts, our homes, our institutions, our Church and our world to his authority. And the end of time, all powers and authorities ever wielded here on earth will be subject to Jesus and submitted to him, for “at the name of Jesus, every knee must bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Lord” (Phil 2:10).

In synopsis, the readings of today’s Mass also point us to this perspective. The first reading tells us that though God has put leaders in charge of his people, many of these leaders have failed in their respective responsibilities. But God is our true leader who will never fail. From the psalm, we deduce that when we have good leaders, things will go well for the people; thus, good leadership brings about abundance in all fronts. Saint Paul tells us in the second reading that the kingdoms of the world will fail, as indeed history has shown, but the kingdom of Christ will never fail, and his reign brings life to all who subject themselves to his Lordship, just as we heard in the psalm also. And the gospel reading admonishes us that though Jesus is the king of mercy, he is also the king of justice, and he will judge and reward us all accordingly when he returns at the end of time.

There is a lesson in this Feast for all leaders, a lesson to discharge all leadership duties with diligence. And we are all leaders in different ways, so this applies to us all. In the book of the prophet Ezekiel (First Reading), God takes up the imagery of Shepherd-King. Leaders are supposed to be like shepherds who look after their sheep. God condemned Israel’s leaders for being bad shepherds (Ezek 34:1-10) and a similar fate awaits all those who tow the same line of bad shepherds. When God puts us in a position of authority and responsibility, we must strive to discharge our roles faithfully or stand the risk of being condemned.

To be able to serve diligently as good shepherds, we must heed the word of the apostle Peter who admonished that “everyone who serves should serve as though everything were done at God’s orders” (1 Pet 4:11). Having this as a guiding principle will sure help us to put God in the picture of our service to those under us. So we should ask ourselves the questions: How well have I led/served? And how well have the people under my leadership fared? Are they better off or worse off? And how much of the authority of God do I allow to guide me in my leadership role? The example of Jesus as the Shepherd-King is set before us as a model of leadership and if we must truly lead, then we must not only learn from him but also submit to his guidance too. As king, he protects, provides and deals justly with his people; as shepherd, he guides, cares for and leads his flock in the paths of abundance and of safety. This is what is expected of all leaders, and as mentioned earlier, we are all leaders in different ways. This too, is why we should be confident to follow Jesus and let him reign in our lives.

Another lesson we take from today’s Feast is that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. At birth, Jesus came as the infant king; now, he comes to us as the king of our hearts; at the end of time, he will come as the king of justice and shall reward everyone according to what their conducts deserve, and Like a Shepherd, he shall separate the sheep from the goats. He himself said, “Behold, I am coming soon! I will bring my rewards with me, to give to each person according to what he has done” (Rev. 22:12). Notice that he says each person will be rewarded ‘according to what he has done”. This implies that we are our own judges, for judgment day shall simply be a day of receiving awards, the awards of how we have lived here on earth. This is the point made by the gospel reading of todays’ Mass. And from that gospel text, the criterion for giving the award of eternal life or eternal death shall be quite simple: whatsoever you do to others, you do it to Christ. Therefore, the good we do today will speak for us on the Day of Judgment; in the same vein, the bad we do today will speak against us on the Day of Judgment also. Everyday, God presents us with many opportunities to do good, let us use them. May Jesus the King of peace bless us with his peace. Amen

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