Sunday Reflections

Solemnity of Christ the King

Reflection by:

Reflection by:

Fr. Jim Link, CR

This Sunday brings the Church’s liturgical year to a close with the celebration of the Feast of Christ the King.  This feast was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI to counteract the increasing secularization of the West. In the West, when the term “king” comes to mind, we conjure up thoughts of England and the royal images embossed on our money. We dream also of the kings of fairy tales like King Midas or the kings of songs like good King Wenceslaus.  The truth is, we actually don’t have much real contact with a king or the concept of a king.  When applied to Christ however, the concept of kingship must be derived from an understanding in faith of his ministry, death and resurrection and how this is continued through the Church.

The first reading this Sunday from Ezekiel is set in the context of the failure of the kings of Israel to take care of their people.  Because of that, God himself becomes the shepherd to do what the kings failed to accomplish.  Ultimately, we know that it is Jesus who becomes the one and only true shepherd of God’s people.  And this is the ministerial task that has been passed on to the Church led by the disciples appointed to represent Christ on earth until the final judgment.

As we all know and experience, the history of church leaders has had a roller coaster ride of success and failures.  We joke sometimes that the fact that the Church has survived at all is testimony that, in the end, the Holy Spirit is in charge and works even through the sin and brokenness that often is so evident.  A first reading of the gospel reading from Matthew this Sunday underscores the duty to take care of the most needy and vulnerable in our midst.  But from an honest scriptural interpretation of the text, the phrase “the least of my brothers and sisters” referred to in the judgment scene is a reference not to the general public but to the disciples and those who have been charged with the ministry of leading the church and preaching the gospel.  This is not how most of us have approached this text but it is what Matthew intended.

It follows what is called the “shaliach” principle, according to which the acceptance or rejection of an accredited agent involves the acceptance or rejection of the sender, that is, we must receive the messengers of Christ and be receptive in faith to their word and teaching for they speak in the name and person of Christ.

In the past, the leaders of church may have been held in esteem and given undue deference, but the exposure of sexual misconduct and other misbehaviors have pulled the rug out from under the social status and respect we may have had for many of our church leaders.  These days, it is often not much fun being a priest.  And yet, we continue to move forward trying to be the best shepherds we can be in spite of our human weaknesses.  The great Spanish mystic and Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila, once wrote that she couldn’t understand why the church asked everyone to pray for priests since she assumed their holiness because of their exalted status.  She held that position until the time she came to Rome and had to live near many of them in the city. That experience changed her mind.

I can tell you that for myself as a priest I depend on people to pray for me.  I hold no illusions that I have been placed on any kind of pedestal but only deeply aware of the responsibility I have been given to be a transparent vehicle of Christ’s presence.  My personal prayer has often been asking God to help me not to do or say anything that would ever obscure, impede or get in the way of what Christ wants for the people I am sent to serve. Each of us has been called to serve the community of Christ with the gifts we have received and, ultimately, how well we have done will be what we bring to judgment at the end.

And so, let us pray for each other, as sisters and brothers in Christ, that as we strive to let Christ rule our lives as king and shepherd, we may each cooperate in helping bring about Christ’s reign. Then, at the end of time, we too will hear from Christ, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

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