A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy
BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 52)
Christ the King, Year A – November 20, 2005
Ez 34:11-12, 15-17 // I Cor 15:20-16, 18 // Mt 25:31-46
I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS
On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Church celebrates the solemnity of Christ the King. Our celebration of his kingship intensifies our expectation of his coming again in glory. Indeed, the end of the Church year is a traditional and opportune time for the Church to focus on the end time, which includes the last judgment. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, give us an interesting background concerning this liturgical feast: “To tell the truth, when the liturgical reform was in preparation, certain persons questioned the celebration of Christ the King. On the one hand, liturgists pointed out how abnormal was the celebration of a title of Christ. They added that the celebration of Epiphany already has for its object the manifestation of the universal kingship of Christ. On the other hand, pastors mentioned the difficulty of a feast that ran the risk of being misunderstood. One needed to furnish explanations so that the faithful would see that the kingship of Christ had nothing in common with the images of absolute power, luxury, splendor, and so forth, associated with the concept of king. In sum, they said, it was necessary to begin by insisting on what Christ the King was not. The feast was kept in the liturgical calendar and was moved from the last Sunday in October to the last Sunday of the liturgical year, which it crowns. It is not just the title of Christ that is the object of the celebration but his person and the global mystery of the Risen One at the right hand of the Father, who came, who comes, and who will come again.”
This Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mt 25:31-46), the passage that concludes Jesus’ eschatological discourse, is most appropriate for the feast of Christ the King. The last judgment scene that is described in the Gospel presents us with a different kind of king: a shepherd-king who exercises his power and authority in favor of his people and whose sole criterion for judging our worthiness for citizenship in his kingdom is our exercise of love. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, elucidate: “This gospel passage sheds full light on the nature and object of Jesus’ mission … By his words and acts, he never stopped teaching that the kingdom has been prepared for the little and poor ones, to whom God will do justice, and for those who are like them … The judgment scene, as shown in Matthew’s Gospel, is the summit of this teaching and further enhances it. Indeed, the evangelist shows that all will be judged on what they will have done or not done for those who were hungry and thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, prisoners, those whom from the beginning of his ministry Jesus declared blessed (Mt 5:1-12). You did for me … You did not do for me … The works of mercy that we shall have done or neglected to do – ‘almsgiving’ – will judge us.”
The works of mercy that are done as an exercise of love can be interpreted literally – the whole world has more than its share of the homeless and the hungry – but we need to go beyond what is obvious. Harold Buetow remarks: “Often we are called to meet the needs which require looking below the surface and demand creativity and initiative. With the hungry, creativity and initiative may suggest feeding people’s hunger for knowledge by volunteering at a literacy organization, feeding people’s hunger for companionship by welcoming a new neighbor in for coffee, or feeding the hunger for intimacy by lending our ear to people in need of sympathy. Looking below the surface may suggest slaking people’s thirst for justice by contacting legislators about issues of concern, or people’s thirst for equality by not discriminating, or people’s thirst for self-worth by helping battered spouses or other people on the edge. We can welcome the strangers by helping at a shelter for the troubled, by teaching children to accept people of all colors and cultures, or by volunteering at a hotline for people with problems. To clothe the naked, we might supply a poor family with such essentials for good grooming as soap, detergent, toothpaste, or cosmetics. We might visit the sick by helping people who suffer from substance abuse, calling on shut-ins, or listening to a friend who is depressed. As for prison, we can help people who are locked up by many things besides the police: materialism, loneliness, loss of a sense of their human dignity and of hope about the meaning of their lives. But the list of the ‘corporal works of mercy’ should not be limited to these. If we have compassionate hearts, which is the badge of nobility in Jesus’ Kingdom, there will swim into our vision thousands of ways to be of help to people who need us.”
The evangelist Matthew’s picture of the last judgment sheds full light on the nature and the object of Jesus’ saving mission as shepherd-king and on the divine plan to reserve the kingdom for the little and the poor ones. The judgment scene enhances and is the summit of Christ’s teaching on service and love of neighbor. All will be judged on what has been done or not been done on behalf of the little ones who are Christ’s brothers and sisters. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, reflect on the meaning of Jesus as the King of the little ones, the poor: “Christ is King. But this title does not designate him as a powerful one among or above the powerful of the earth. In the tradition of the cultures of the Middle East, this title refers to the concept of God as Shepherd-King of his people, who tends the frailest sheep of his flock. The king is the one who does justice to the weak and the poor whom he protects against the powerful and the tyrannical power they exercise toward the defenseless and those threatened by injustice. God is this perfect king who acts with mercy, compassion and tenderness … Jesus has revealed this divine kingship. He calls the little ones his brothers and sisters. He does so not because he belongs to their world by his birth and shares a sort of class kinship with them, but because he is the Son and the Image of the Father and shares the same sentiments. This is why he recognizes as his own those who act like him, are animated by the same effective charity, feed the hungry, see to the needs of the destitute, liberate prisoners. When he comes back in his glory and gives his royal power in homage to God, he will introduce into his kingdom those who will have acted as he did.”
by Elise Doroteo
(Junior High, Assumption School, Antipolo City, Philippines)
A Dutch proverb goes, “The end crowns all.” This might be a fitting quote for the Gospel today, Christ the king Sunday, which marks the end of a liturgical year. As the liturgical year draws to a close, the Gospel reaffirms us in our faith in Christ as the crowned King, our Lord and Savior.
In today’s Gospel, we are asked, “What have we done to the least of our brethren?” It is everyday that we contend with our less fortunate brothers and sisters – we encounter them as we commute to our specific occupations, we pass them on a busy sidewalk … Perhaps they are in the same home we reside in. The least of our brethren may vary for each of us, as we come from different walks of life and move in different spheres. There are a lot of differences posed to us by these – we may differ in race, religion, occupation, social standing, economic status, accomplishments – but these differences must not hinder us from helping our brothers and sisters.
The Gospel calls us to wholly fulfill our roles as Kingly Servants, part of the threefold mission of Christ that was handed on to the Church through the Apostles. It was during the Pentecost, the birthday of the Church that we were “debabelized” – we overcame all cultural and social barriers by uniting under the power of the Holy Spirit. We were given the identity as Disciples of Christ, authorized by him to go out and continue his threefold mission. This is what today’s Gospel challenges us to do – to fully realize our identity as followers of Christ, living out not only our role as kingly Servants, but the entirety of his threefold mission – we are called to be Priests, Prophets, and Kingly Servants.
II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART
A. In this last Sunday of the liturgical year, do we take time to focus our attention and contemplation on the meaning of Christ’s kingship and the global saving mystery of him as the Risen One at the right hand of the Father, who came, who comes, and who will come again?
B. How do we respond to the criterion of Christ’s kingship based on the exercise of love and service on behalf of the “little ones”? Do we have compassionate hearts that serve as a badge of the nobility of his kingdom?
C. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “If sometimes our poor people have had to die out of starvation, it is not because God didn’t care for them, but because you and I didn’t give, were not instruments of love in the hands of God, to give them that bread, to give them that clothing; because we did not recognize Christ, when once more Christ came in distressing disguise.” Are we guilty of refusing to see Jesus in other people who need to be served? Have we failed to see that the kingdom of Jesus has been prepared for the little and poor ones and that we have been called to be instruments of God’s love on their behalf?
III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD
(Adapted from a prayer by the Commission Francophone Cistercienne, Sur la trace de Dieu, Paris: Desclee, 1979, 94 – Fiche de chant M 53)
Leader: Your kingdom is not of this world, Lord Jesus,
since you carry this world on your shoulders,
as a shepherd his lost sheep.
To show your dominion,
no other scepter than your cross.
No other strength than your mercy:
no other right than your victorious love.
You offer to us your life in exchange for our death,
because your power wants to give us back to ourselves
and snatch us out of the yoke of remorse.
Your kingdom already inhabits us, Lord Jesus;
at your word the child in us rises,
you recreate it almost unbeknown to us.
Everything journeys in you toward its beauty;
still frail, joy touches the earth;
heaven is near,
near, its radiance.
Assembly: Help us to live by your Gospel
and bring us to the joy of your kingdom,
where you live and reign forever and ever.
IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD
The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.
“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25:40)
V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION
A. ACTION PLAN: Pray for the grace to understand more fully the meaning of Christ’s kingship in terms of his pastoral ministry to the poor and the little ones. On this last Sunday and last week of the liturgical year, crown your spiritual journey with Christ the King with corporal works of mercy for your needy brothers and sisters in the community.
B. ACTION PLAN: To help us crown the end of the liturgical year with prayer and thanksgiving and in order to give homage to Jesus Christ, Shepherd-King, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 52): A Weekly Pastoral Tool.
Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM
PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI
SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323