Our often misplaced democratic sentiments make difficult the integration of today’s feast to life. We don’t talk about kings, queens, and princes except in derogatory terms: as people unduly privileged. And we detest such privileges, insisting everyone should be equal in everything. We’re currently experimenting with radical equality, where equality is so sacrosanct that it becomes the winning formula for any argument in the public square. For example, equal rights have to include: marriage equality, gender equality, bathroom equality, and who knows—economic equality, wage equality, religious equality, intellectual equality, down to the wire. Part of the effort to design radical equality involves the resolve to debunk history’s great personalities, finding their faults: maybe they sometime beat their wife, or quarreled with their child, or owned slaves. Hence, Christopher Columbus isn’t that great, nor is Jefferson, etc. They don’t deserve monuments erected to their honor. The ones erected by the ‘naïve’ people of the past deserve to be torn down by us—people of the iSmart generation. Observe that currently, we’re not only making mockery of leadership, we’re like owls, awake at night, searching out the pitfalls of leaders; and should we find none, the media gets to work to help make some up, so we can use our leaders to amuse ourselves at our late night shows. And we call this living in a free society.
Given this backdrop, the truth about the kingship of Christ won’t square well with many. Few years ago, an atheistic author made up stories about Jesus having a wife through whom He raised kids who formed the line of kings in France. Many were thrilled by the craziness, notwithstanding that the charade of a novel, The Da Vinci Code, was clearly marked a “Fictional Tale.” It tells you the extent to which people crave absurd myths, legends, and lies about Christ and how easily seeds of doubt about the Christian faith and the core truth about Christ are sown and swallowed by the gullible. Yet, Christ remains a sign of contradiction, as Simeon prophesied. Even those who hated him, like Herod, craved to see and hear him. Many who don’t believe in Him are still fascinated about His person and would crave blubbering something about Him. If that is not dominion, tell me what else is. Christ truly rules the hearts and minds of both those who know Him as king and those who pretend they have another.
Christ’s kingship is celebrated this Sunday, the last of the 52 Sundays that make up the Church’s liturgical year. The Church’s division of her liturgical year into three cycles A, B, C is probably the most biblical piece of the Church’s life, drawing directly from the three synoptic gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke, each representing cycles A, B, C, respectively. Though you may have been told by your Evangelical Protestant friends that Catholics don’t read the bible, the truth is that you actually do read, and more importantly listen a lot to the bible, especially if you attend Mass every Sunday. Today, we conclude our lessons from the gospel of Matthew—not chronologically but liturgically. This means that our listening to Matthew was more a lived experience than mere reading; if you like, we lived the good news of Matthew more than we read him.
Today’s gospel speaks to us about the Final Judgment, putting before our focus the Four Last Things—Death, Judgment, Heaven, or Hell. The parable of the sheep and the goats reveals the central issues on which judgment would be based. After all is said and done, we shall be judged based on our commitment to charity (aka love)—what the Church refers to as the Corporal Works of Mercy. The parable has Jesus telling us that He disguises Himself as the poor, the stranger, the homeless, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner in His everyday encounter with us. Every charitable overture or lack of it we make or refuse to make toward the weak is an encounter with Him. The sacred playground for divine encounter is the arena of the poor. Pope Francis’ entire pontificate has been a reminder to all Christians of this shocking truth. How well are you responding to this demand of your Lord and King?
Fr. Jo Chukwudi Okonkwo