The readings for the feast of Christ the King teach us two things about kingship. First, the king is the sovereign ruler and second, the king is charged with the care of his people as the reading from Ezekiel 34 demonstrates. “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” ( Ezk 34:11) The prophet describes other duties of the king; to rescue, to pasture, to give rest, to bind up the injured, and to heal the sick. Aren’t these the expectations that we have from those who govern us? Providing systems and policies that make it possible for all from the greatest to the least to have the necessities of life.
A good example can be found in St. Louis IX, king of France. A follower of St. Francis in the Third Order, he was known to open his palace on feast days and invite in the poor of the city. He taught his son to care for those in need and taught that it is the duty of a ruler to provide for the poor, to side with the poor in disputes, not letting social status influence justice. These are lessons we can all take to heart in our culture today.
The Gospel reading from Matthew chapter 25 is one of my favorites. We see beginning in verse 31 the Son of Man separating the sheep from the goats. The sheep are those who have provided for those in need; clothed the naked, fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, visited those in prison, and welcomed the stranger. The Son of Man refers to himself as “king” in verse 40 when he issues judgement. “And the king will say to them in reply, Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. Then he will say to those on his left, depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Mt 25:40-41)
We have just witnessed a fiercely contested election. We have chosen those who will govern over us. We must expect them, and yes, hold them accountable, to provide for the needs of those they govern. We have witnessed all too often of late, politicians who when elected, accumulate great wealth while in office. It is said that no one leaves congress a poorer person. Lobbyists, political action groups and large campaign donors make it nearly impossible for our legislatures to be truly independent and seek the common good. Those elected “by” the people are not always acting “for” the people. We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide them. It also would be good if all of us contacted our legislatures, newly elected and incumbents and demand that they put limits on the compensation congress can receive from corporations and lobbyists.
So what can we do? Each of us can live out the call of the King in Matthew 25 and work to ensure the least among us are cared for. In the early Church, before Christianity was legalized in Rome, there was an emperor, Julian the Apostate. Julian, it is said, lamented that Christians were making the Roman government look bad. He observed that Christians were taking better care of needy Romans than the Roman government. The Christians not only looked after their own, but any who demonstrated a need. In the end, it was that witness of Christian charity that converted the culture. It took a few centuries, but in God’s time and with perseverance, charity converted the most powerful empire known to the world at that time. We also should take the advice of Blessed Solanus Casey, the Capuchin Franciscan friar of Detroit, MI., to “Shake off excessive worry and exercise a little confidence in in God’s merciful providence.” I believe that the Church will always be better positioned to provide for those in need than the government. The Church is on the front lines and knows the needs of its local communities far better than a bureaucrat. However, we must also work to ensure that there are systems and policies in place that make that work easier and able to be performed unimpeded.
So as the dust settles from our recent elections and the pandemic, the experiences which we will all remember as 2020, a year that will live in infamy, let us not lose the peace of Christ in our hearts. Let us all call to mind the King to whom we owe our ultimate allegiance, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings. “So that at Jesus’ name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: Jesus Christ is Lord!” (Philippians 2:10-11)
Collect Prayer from the Feast of Christ the King:
Almighty ever-living God, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of the universe, grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery, may render your majesty service and ceaselessly proclaim your praise. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
May the Lord grant you His peace.