Well, we made it — our Church year is over! That was fast one, wasn’t it? You might not have even realized it, of course, with Thanksgiving and Black Friday this week. Yes, this is the last Sunday of the Church year. It’s sort of like our New Year’s Day. It’s a chance to look forward, of course, but also an opportunity to look back. A chance to consider some questions like… was it a pretty good year in matters of faith, or not so good? Were we good disciples, or mediocre ones? Did we stay on the good path, or did we stray all over the place?
Think about it. If you had to give yourself a report card measuring how well you followed Jesus this past year, what grade would you give yourself? And maybe more importantly, what New Year’s resolution are you going to make in order to keep those grades up?
That’s a tall order, I know. But seeing as our Gospel today — one of the few places in the New Testament where Jesus tells us how we’ll be “graded” – is about evaluating our experience, maybe we should give it a try.
I mean, we get “graded” all the time, don’t we? Like at our jobs. About how well we work with co-workers who don’t do their fair share. Company policies that make little sense. Customers who act rudely or who are completely unreasonable. Bad hours. Low pay. Managers who don’t understand. Everyone agrees to be evaluated – that’s how we get better. I bet there are many people here this morning who evaluate others!
Now, business wisdom tells us that when we look out over our works places, we just need to focus on what is most important. And what’s most important? Well, many would say that your primary responsibility is to do what you can to make your boss happy.”
Don’t worry about all the other stuff going on — the office politics, cliques and gossip. Simply try to do what your boss expects of you. And nine times out of ten, your evaluation will take care of itself.
And maybe that’s what the Solemnity of Christ the King is all about. A day on which we are reminded to focus on what is most important. Indeed, that’s why Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 as a response to growing secularism and nationalism in the aftermath of World War I. But it’s not the same as the work place. For Jesus is not just some kind of “boss”. He’s not someone that we have to serve grudgingly. He’s not someone that gets to tell us what to do because we have no other options for income. He’s definitely not someone we simply “work” for nine-to-five and then forget about until the next day.
No, this solemnity celebrates a king who doesn’t tower over us, but loves us. Who doesn’t control us, but invites us into a deeper relationship with him. Who doesn’t rule through intimidation or fear, but through compassion and mercy. Who doesn’t seek to exact revenge, but forgives and forgives and forgives again.
In other words, our primary response to that kind of love, to that type of leadership from our King, is to love others in the same way. Everything else will take care of itself. To treat the poor, the orphaned, the widows, and the foreigners in the same way we would want to be treated. The way that God treat us.
That’s contagious, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to do the same? So, let’s get back to the report cards. How did we do this past year, based on what St. Matthew just explained to us?
“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.”
Or, another way to ask that today might be — how kind were we? How compassionate? Did we show mercy? Were we as forgiving as with people in our lives as they were with our lives? Were we as generous and as loving as we could have been, as much as we appreciate generosity?
Now, I have a confession to make. I did not make the honor roll. I think I need to hit the books (that is, learn to love) a little better. My sinfulness took me away from God this past year, and in order to do better, I’m going to need some help. Maybe you can relate?
But there is no need to travel far to find assistance on this. Remember our first reading from Ezekiel, when God says “I myself will look after and tend my sheep?” That’s the consolation I need. When we are lost – when we are not getting good grades – God will find us. God will give you the strength to get all your homework done. He’ll be with you through every test. You will be a straight A student.
See, Ezekiel went around trying to change people during the Babylonian exile. He makes it clear that Yahweh himself will from now on take over the shepherding of this people. Not a conquering power. Yahweh will seek out the lost and bring back the strayed, just like Israel’s return from exile and resettlement in the Holy Land.
“The injured I will bind up; the sick I will heal.”
By finding the lost, by healing the sick, by saving them from the darkness, the cloudiness, by giving them rest, by bringing low the proud and the foolish who appear to be winning… this King will take care of them.
Shouldn’t we trust God do to the same? Starting this Advent, with a clean slate, looking ahead to the next twelve months?
I think I just found my New Year’s Resolution.