21-23 November 2014
Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio
His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič
With today’s solemnity of Christ the King, we conclude our liturgical year, while next week we will commence a new cycle with the first Sunday of Advent.
Final judgment. The theme of today’s gospel message is that of the final judgment. Jesus refers here to his second coming, which shall be at the end of time, when he as the King of all creation and the universe will finally establish his Kingdom. When this will happen and in what way, remains unknown to us. What we do know however, is that in the meantime we have our lives to live and that one day we shall die and pass from this world and come before God. That moment will be our personal encounter with Christ the Lord, who will judge us according to the way we lived our lives.
Jesus’ fundamental rule. Jesus mentions the fundamental rule that he will use in bringing judgment upon us. This is found in the simple sentence: Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me. Jesus here binds himself to the poor, the suffering, to the least of the world and calls them brothers. For God, heaven is comprised of the unfortunate, the humble, the materially poor and those poor in spirit. God does not distance himself from them, but in effect is very close to them, and those who wish to be close to God and reach his company, must necessarily be close to these poor and humble brothers of God, who are amongst us. There are many opportunities for us to do good towards others and we cannot avoid them in our lives if we want to be true followers of Christ who though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich (2 Cor 8:9).
A old Hassidic teaching reminds us that if a man asks for your help do not respond devotedly to him by saying go ask God for help, trust in him and offer your worries up to him, but rather, act as if there were no God and as if there were no one else in the world to help this man, except you! It is exactly in this type of approach towards those less fortunate than us where we can experience the true meaning of the gospel message and its power.
God’s criteria for judgment. The wonderful thing about this particular gospel message regarding the final judgment is that the criteria that the Lord will use in judging us will not based solely on the things we have done wrong, our sins and failures. Instead, we will be judged primarily according to the goodness to others we have shown in our lives. The Lord will not look so much directly at us as he will at those around us whose lives we have touched. And this, by providing food for them when they were hungry, taking them into our homes when they needed shelter, offering money to assist them with their debts, wiping away their tears and consoling them, encouraging those without hope to believe in God, reconciling those at enmity with each other and forgiving those that have done us harm. God will not go out searching for our weaknesses in order to punish us, but rather wants to see the good that we are capable of doing. There is no reason therefore to fear that God will punish us for all our sins, for he has forgiven us in Christ and we need not be afraid of our own human weaknesses, but we should be more concerned about how we have reacted to human need around us.
The Kingdom begins today. Now is the time when we prepare for eternity and our judgment day. Now is the time for each one of us to get moving and to make use of the days the Lord has given us for the simple acts of charity which we can easily do everyday and everywhere. The Lord does not ask us to perform miracles, but he does seek compassion and understanding from us towards our brothers and sisters.
The beautiful rule of Christ in this gospel passage is so important that the Lord ties our eternal destiny to it. Our eternity will depend on a piece of bread which we have given to someone in need. Something so simple that none of us can excuse ourselves and say we don’t have time, or bread, or water, or even a heart for those in need.
Missing out on life. For those that didn’t provide food or shelter or assistance to the least of their brethren, a very stern judgment awaits them. By separating themselves from the poor, they have distanced themselves from God and from themselves. They made the terrible mistake of choosing the wrong path of life. Hell can be understood as not discovering what life is all about, condemning oneself through selfishness, distancing oneself from others, showing a lack of concern for their needs, and also having a mistaken understanding of God, who in Christ says to us: Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me. This judgment is valid also for all peoples and all religions, because at the end of time, the only thing that will truly matter is how capable we are now, today, to love and show concrete acts of charity in the time that has been given to us to live here on earth.
Jesus indeed is a different King. He is not like other rulers or leaders of the world as we know them. The Lord Jesus is a King who has united himself to the poor and those in need. He awakens our devotion and obedience to him through his care for humankind and enables us to open our hearts to our fellow man, especially those in need. Jesus comes to us in the darkness of our existence to give us his light. He knocks on the door of our heart and patiently waits for us to open the door from the inside in order to let him in so that we can reign with him. May he make our hearts similar to his Sacred Heart, by shaping them into truly human hearts, capable of small and great acts of charity that bind us with one another and with him, who remains forever our Lord and King – the true King of hearts!