HOMILY FOR 34TH SUNDAY YEAR A: SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING
THEME: A Kingdom of Where Everyone is Cared For
By: Fr. Luke Ijezie
Today the Church celebrates the Solemn feast of Christ, the Universal King. The feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI on December 11, 1925, and it is celebrated on the last Sunday of the liturgical year, which is today, the 34th Sunday. The feast asserts the rights of Jesus to receive full homage, full service and full honour and fidelity from all humanity and in all aspects of human life. In Nigeria, the feast is specifically celebrated with the solemn Procession with the Blessed Sacrament, which before used to be done during the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). The Corpus Christi procession adds a great colour to the celebration as it truly announces and demonstrates amidst popular shouts and praises that Jesus is the one to follow and listen to, as he is the very face and presence of God in our midst and model of loving in our troubled world. One important message of the feast from today’s readings is that the reign of Christ is for the wellbeing of all persons irrespective of rank or status or provenance. To be part of the reign of Christ is to join him in the care of all creatures, especially the more vulnerable members of the society.
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1. In the first reading of today from Ezek 34:11-17, the care is expressed with the metaphor of shepherding, which is also found in the responsorial psalm from Psalm 23. The shepherd’s role is that of total dedication and commitment to the overall welfare of the sheep. He makes sure that the sheep is well provided for in terms of nourishment, comfort and security. In Ezekiel 34, God laments that the shepherd’s placed over His people have proved themselves irresponsible and selfish. Instead of caring for the sheep, they are only after their own comfort such that most of the sheep are left to stray and get lost or wounded. Consequently, God has decided to intervene in person to take care of His abandoned and scattered sheep. He will look after the lost, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded, make the weak strong and watch over the fat and healthy. There are six significant conditions of the sheep mentioned here: the lost, the stray, the wounded, the weak, the fat, the healthy. All of us, all humanity, without exception fall within these diverse grades of sheep. No condition escapes God’s shepherding care. The text is a great warning to all irresponsible leaders in the society.
In the same way the psalmist of Psalm 23 regards God as the Good Shepherd who leads the sheep securely through every troubled region. As long as God leads, one can even eat a banquet without fear in the sight of powerful foes. What it means is that we have nothing to fear as long as God is with us. We can always remain calm in troubled times.
2. The second reading from 1 Cor 15:20-28 presents Christ as the only hope of life for humanity that is menaced by the forces of death right from Adam. If all died in Adam, they are brought to new life in Christ. But this does not go without a terrible fight. According to the text, Jesus must fight a battle against all the hostile forces that cause destruction and death. These enemy forces include every other sovereignty, authority and power. Every force that hinders God’s people from enjoying the good life planned for them by God is a hostile force that must be defeated. There are many such hostile forces in our present world and society.
3. The Gospel text of Matt 25:31-46 presents a dramatic picture of the last judgment that awaits all humanity. Those who will pass the judgment are only those who take care of the weaker members of the society: “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Matt 25:35-36). There are six categories of suffering conditions mentioned: hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned. It is remarkable that Jesus identifies himself in this context with the lot of the suffering humanity, the same group depicted as the suffering and hapless sheep in the Ezek 34.
4. Working for the Kingdom of Christ involves getting fully engaged with the lives of others and being committed to repairing their brokenness. The way to show that the reign of God is in our midst is by being concerned for the welfare of others, paying practical attention to the sufferings of the poor and the needy. Wherever love, selflessness, righteousness and justice are lived out, there the reign of Christ is experienced. But wherever hate, selfishness, wickedness and injustice are the order of the day, there we see the bitterness of hell. As we hail Christ today as the Universal King, we are summoned to work with dedication for the welfare of others through concrete acts of love and human solidarity.
May the Spirit of God continue to abide with us so that we may realize the fruits of Christ’s reign of love, justice and peace in our land!
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