CHRIST THE KING (A)
In one of his daily meditations, Fr. Richard Rohr tells this story. Fr. Rohr was on retreat at Gethsemani Abbey, a Trappist monastery in Kentucky. The famous monk, Thomas Merton, came up to him and said, “Richard, you get chances to preach and I don’t. Tell the people one thing”. Pointing to the sky, Merton said, “God is not ‘out there’!”
Today’s Gospel parable about the end of the world describes quite clearly where God is. However, before we examine the details of the parable, it is important to return to the beginning.
The 1st page of the Bible proclaims that human beings are made in the image of God. At the moment of conception, God enters the picture and places a piece of himself, a divine spark, at the core of every person. As a result of God’s generosity, each of us has divine DNA in our makeup. This inner divinity exists in all persons. There are no exceptions; there are no exclusions. Furthermore, this divine presence is never withdrawn.
Now, let’s look more closely at the parable. Jesus builds upon this truth found in the book of Genesis. Jesus identifies himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the prisoner, the stranger and the sick. Jesus is present in other people, particularly in “the least among us”, namely, in those who are weak, struggling and suffering.
God is enfleshed in human beings; human beings house God. This is not the only tabernacle in this church. You and I are a tabernacle. Just as Jesus is really present in this tabernacle, Jesus is really present in every human person. Therefore, every person is sacred. That’s how precious we are in the eyes of God. Every person has dignity, worth and value.
Consequently, the vocation of the Christian is to recognize the presence of God in every person we meet, particularly in the vulnerable, the excluded and the marginalized.
In the book, Saints and Social Justice: a Guide to Changing the World, the author made these remarks about St. Mother Teresa: “People often asked Mother Teresa why she loved the poor so much, how she could honor dignity in such difficult situations. Her answer: ‘Each one of them is Jesus in disguise’. The secret to her infectious joy and boundless compassion was that in every person—every paralytic, every leper, every invalid, and every orphan—she recognized Jesus. This is why Mother Teresa could say, ‘I have an opportunity to be with Jesus 24 hours a day’.”
Mother Teresa’s life teaches us that, when we respond in generous service to those in need, we are not just doing an action FOR Jesus; we are doing an action TO Jesus. Whatever we do to each other, we do to Christ. We are not just doing a “good deed”; we are serving Jesus himself.
Fr. Ronald Rolheiser wrote in 1 of his books: “Each of us will need a reference letter from the poor in order to get into heaven”. As we know, it is possible to experience poverty in other ways besides financially or materially. A person can be poor at the psychological, social, emotional, moral or spiritual level. All these forms of lack and emptiness are worthy of our attention and action.
Francis de Sales was a priest and bishop who lived from 1567 to 1622. One of his famous sayings was: “Show me the person you love the least. That’s how much you love God!” If we fail to show care, kindness and concern towards someone else, we are neglecting Jesus. If we neglect Jesus, how can we say we love God?
Let’s return to the 1st page of the Bible. Not only does the book of Genesis use the phrase, “image of God”; it also uses the expression, “likeness of God”. A key message of Genesis is that, having been made in the “image of God”, we are called to grow into the “likeness of God”. We are called to grow in divine likeness. We are called to externally resemble God, to think and to act as God thinks and acts.
How does God think and act? Let’s look at Jesus. Being transformed into the “likeness of God” means that we have the same mind as Jesus, the same heart as Jesus, the same habits and the same behaviours as Jesus as described in today’s Gospel.
Every person we encounter in our homes, schools, workplaces, restaurants, and shopping malls reveals the presence of God. To adopt this mindset is proof that we are being transformed into the likeness of God.
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. As King of the Universe, Jesus will preside over the final judgment.
As the parable points out, the final judgment will not involve answering questions on the catechism, outlining a list of the devotions followed or discussing church attendance. As Bishop Baron often explains, prayer, sacraments, sacramentals are not ends in themselves. The purpose of all these religious activities is to make us better agents of compassion, forgiveness and love. If religious traditions and rituals do not improve the quality of our loving, they are useless and meaningless.
The final judgment will deal with only 1 issue: How did we treat the people we encountered in our daily living – particularly people whom we consider to be “nobodys”, whom we consider difficult and hard to get along with, or whom we even consider to be enemies.
Let’s return to the original question: “Where is God?” It depends where we are when we ask the question. If we are in our homes, in order to find God, all we have to do is look at the person sitting across from us at the dinner table. If we are outside in our neighborhood, all we have to do is look at the person who lives in the house beside us. If we are standing in the check-out line at the grocery store, all we need to do is look at the person in front of us or behind us.
As the 2nd Reading states, “God is all in all”. As King of the Universe, God is everywhere and, most importantly, in everyone.
As our Eucharist on our parish feast day continues, let us ask God for the grace to find Jesus in disguise in each person and to devote ourselves to his / her well-being. It is upon this that our salvation depends!
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
November 21-22, 2020