Richard M. Nahman, O.S.A.
Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Friary
Bronx, New York
Ez 34: 11-12, 15-17
Ps 23: 1-2, 2-3, 5-6
1 Cor 15: 20-26, 28
Mt 25: 31-46
Today we celebrate the conclusion of another liturgical year. We have systematically celebrated the gift of God’s self-giving love to us humans, restoring us to a state wherein we can achieve the original Divine design for us … participation in God’s life of love. Jesus is the gift given to the human race through whom we can attain the purpose of our existence which is to rest in the Divine. Saint Augustine put it simply when he prayed: “You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
We had lost our way and God revealed that we would be sought after, found and restored. During Advent we relived the waiting and aimless wandering of a blinded human race gradually hearing and responding to the Divine initiative. We then celebrated the birth of the one who has restored us in the liturgies of Christmas and his revelation to the world in Epiphany. Following Jesus public life for a few weeks we then entered into the season of Lent in which we more deeply were led to own our alienation from intimacy with the Divine (called sinfulness) and led to the celebration of the wonder of sacrificial love of Jesus in his Passion and Death.
With a profound sense of joy realizing the freedom from a miserable situation and the return to participation in the life of the Divine though our Baptism we heartily sang out the Easter Alleluia. We were invited once again to renew the commitment we made by our vows of baptism to accept the commission Jesus gave to all his followers on the first Easter evening: “As the Father sent me so now I send you.” We said yes to live in this world with the same mind-set with which Jesus came. He told us that he had come “… that you may have life, and have it to the full.” And to live this life we opened our hearts to receive his Spirit as we celebrated Pentecost. We then followed the life of Jesus through Ordinary Time as he unfolds his mission of establishing the kingdom of God. He constantly reminds us that this is also our mission by prompting us to regularly pray “thy kingdom come.” Today we are invited to reflect and celebrate in anticipation the accomplishment of this petition … the time when all creation is in harmony with the Divine creative intention … when all creation conforms with the one through whom and for all was created … the Word who became flesh in Jesus, the Christ.
The gospel today expresses our job description. “Thy kingdom come” we are taught to pray … and what this implies follows … a kingdom where God’s will “is done on earth as it is in heaven.” God, revealed in the image of a Father, would want what any parent wants for a child… that for which Jesus tells us he came … that God’s children may have life, and have it to the full. A parent wants a child to be alive … not simply survive, not simply exist, not simply cling to life, but to thrive from womb to tomb.
Thus today’s gospel challenges us with the question … am I giving life? It is a very specific expression of the accountability to which each us will be held. And Jesus makes it very personal … when you saw me just clinging to life, merely surviving, what did you do?
Today I would invite you to be humbly honest with your answer to Jesus the judging King. Have you fed him, clothed him, slaked his thirst, sheltered him, welcomed him, comforted him, broken his isolation? I hope you have the courage to own that your answer is a resounding Yes, Lord, I have. Have we done it perfectly, no … we have sometimes fallen down on the job. Have we done it well enough that our King is proud of us, I submit that yes we have. Let’s look at the facts …
We are Roman Catholics. Can you name another community that feeds more, clothes more, shelters more, lifts up from the depths of desperation, destitution, dehumanization and degradation more people than we do? How many millions of people have moved from merely surviving to living because of you? The missionary enterprise of the Roman Catholic Church is unparalleled in preaching the Gospel of Life through loving action. And that is you. Every month you respond to a second collection which reaches out to the broken members of the human family. Each year each diocese has an appeal though which you have homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, hospital and prison chaplains, all the works of Catholic Charities. Today we celebrate the Kingdom of God which we are daily building and over which Christ reigns as King. It is a work in progress. When we celebrate Christ the King we are invited to realize that we are celebrating the whole Christ … not just Jesus the son of Mary … but the Christ of whom He spoke when he asked Paul, “Why are you persecuting me?” … the whole Christ with whom the head identifies when he tells us in today’s gospel “whenever you did/did not/ do it to the least of these you did /did not/ do it to me.” We celebrate the reign of God when all of creation is united in the image through whom all things were made.
As we conclude one Liturgical year and begin another I am challenged to renew my commitment to put on the mind of Christ. As I open my day offering it to the Lord I am challenged to realize that I am a partner with him, offering my small drop of water in the Rio Grande of Grace, carving out the Grand Canyon of God’s kingdom. I am challenged to imitate Jesus who did not come for himself, did not come to save his soul, but was a person for others and trusted in the Father to give him glory.
I am challenged to commit myself to be an instrument of life, however that plays out in my daily routine … a word of encouragement or praise, a helping hand, an activity which allows another to know they are accepted and appreciated.
And I am delightedly challenged to appreciate that my meager efforts are done in union with a faithful, appreciative Partner who expresses gratitude by the continuous out-pouring of grace, especially at the prayer of utmost thanksgiving, the Eucharist. Pause for a few moments after you receive Communion. In that sacred moment of intimacy allow yourself to hear Jesus saying “Thank You.”