Solemnity of Christ the King – Cycle A
Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this
discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that
Instituted by Pius XI in 1926, this feast was celebrated on the last
Sunday of October to foster the awareness of Christ’s dominion
over all people and to establish peace among nations. After Vatican
Council II the feast was transferred to the last Sunday of the
Liturgical Year, the Sunday before Advent, on which the human race is
consecrated to the Sacred Heart through the Litany of the Sacred Heart
and a prayer recited before the Blessed Sacrament.
This feast celebrates Christ’s Kingship in an altogether
non-worldly way. Jesus was anointed by the Father with the oil of
gladness as the Eternal Priest and Universal King. As Priest He offered
His life on the altar of the Cross and redeemed the human race by this
one perfect sacrifice of peace. As King He claims dominion over all
creation that He may present to the almighty Father a Kingdom of truth
and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love,
1st Reading - Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
It is Ezekiel who pronounces the death sentence upon the kingdom with
its entire political and religious structure of king, priest, and
prophet. The earliest date mentioned in his book is 593 B.C. and the
latest is 571 B.C. He was one of those deported by Nebuchadnezzar to
Babylon in 597 B.C.
The book of Ezekiel falls into four major parts:
1) Chapters 1 through 24 which are threatening discourses before the fall of Jerusalem
2) Chapters 25 through 32 which are oracles against the nations
3) Chapters 33 through 39 which contain discourses of
promise after the fall of Jerusalem (from which our reading for today
4) Chapters 40 through 48 which are descriptions of
the future restoration of the Temple, Jerusalem, and Israel
It is interesting that St. Jerome, in his preface to the book of
Ezekiel notes that rabbinic tradition was that no one was permitted to
read the beginning and the end of the book (also the beginning of
Genesis and all of the Song of Songs) until he reached the age at which
priests began their ministry (age 30) because “full maturity of
human nature is necessary for perfect knowledge and mystical
understanding” such as are called for by the material in these
The 10 verses preceding today’s reading are a bitter indictment
of the wicked shepherds of God’s people. In today’s reading
we hear Yahweh proclaim that he will judge between the sheep and
inaugurate an age of peace.
11 For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
Since the kings, priests, and prophets have been ineffective and even
led to denial of God, there will be a return to the theocracy, God will
be in control. Biblical tradition sees God as Israel’s shepherd
(Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 31:10).
12 As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds
himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will
rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was
cloudy and dark. 15 I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give
them rest, says the Lord GOD. 16 The lost I will seek out, the strayed
I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal
God will reverse the evil done by bad human shepherds.
(but the sleek and the strong I will destroy), shepherding them rightly.
Those who would lead the others astray by setting bad example or
rebellion. God is a good provider, defender of justice and upholder of
17 As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD, I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.
This is an application of the principle of individual responsibility.
2nd Reading - 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
In Paul’s day Corinth was a bustling city with a cosmopolitan
population drawn from all parts of the Roman Empire. It was a center of
government and of commerce; its population included Roman officials and
military, businessmen, merchants, and sailors from Greece, Italy,
Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and other parts of the empire. The city was
also famous as a sports center. It was the home of the Isthmian games
celebrated every second spring. Athletes from all of Greece and the
empire flocked to Corinth to compete in these contests. In a pagan
world notoriously tolerant of sexual license, Corinth had a reputation
for debauchery and licentiousness. In the Greek language, “to
live like a Corinthian” meant to live a dissolute life. Also, the
expression “Corinthian girl” was a euphemism for a
prostitute. The patron deity of the city was Aphrodite, whose temple is
said to have been serviced by a thousand priestesses, who were sacred
Against this background, Saint Paul established the Church in Corinth
in early A.D. 51 and eighteen months later left there a flourishing
community of Jewish and Gentile converts.
This letter to the Corinthians is the second of four, two having been
lost. In it Paul addresses disorders in the Church and provides answers
to questions they have posed to him in a letter.
20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Firstfruits is more than first in time. It is a Jewish cultic term. The
offering of the first fruits was the symbol of the dedication of the
entire harvest to God. The resurrection of all who are in Him.
“Paul says this in order to get at the false prophets who claimed
that Christ was never born and thus cannot have died. The resurrection
from the dead proves that Christ was a man and therefore able to merit
by His righteousness the resurrection of the dead.” [The
Ambrosiaster (between A.D. 366-384), Commentaries on Thirteen Pauline
21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being.
“The very human nature which was cast down must itself also gain
the victory. For it was by this means that the reproach was wiped
away.” [Saint John Chrysostom (ca. A.D. 392), Homilies on the
First Epistle to the Corinthians 39,5]
22 For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
The parallelism between Christ and Adam is a favorite Pauline teaching.
23 but each one in proper order: Christ the
firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; 24 then
comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father,
when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.
The consummation of time when Christ, having completed His redemptive
mission and brought all the elect to the glory of His resurrection,
manifests His total victory over the evil spirits. Then, having
completed His work, He hands over to His Father the royal authority
that was conferred on Him as Savior of the world and Head of the
25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
See the messianic psalm, Psalm 110:1; a psalm sung by the pilgrims as they journeyed to Jerusalem for the Passover.
“Will the Lord rule only until He has put all His enemies under
His feet? Will He then stop ruling? Obviously it is only then that He
will really begin to rule in the full sense of the word!” [Saint
Jerome (ca. A.D. 383), Against Helvidius: The Perpetual Virginity of
the Blessed Virgin Mary 6]
26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 28 When
everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will (also) be
subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may
be all in all.
Gospel - Matthew 25:31-46
This parable has no parallel in the other Gospels, it is unique to
Matthew. It follows immediately after the parable of the talents which
we heard last week.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
Son of Man is a title which only Jesus uses for Himself. It recalls the
vision of Daniel 7:9, 13-14. Here, the Son of Man acts in the place of
and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32 and all the nations will be assembled before him.
It is God who will do the gathering.
And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the
sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep on his right and the
goats on his left.
The separation of the sheep from the goats can be observed in Palestine
today. The sheep and goats are pastured together but are separated when
it is time for them to be moved.
34 Then the king will say
The Son of Man as king, is executing His Father’s will. With a
blessing He invites the saved to enter the kingdom, which always exists
but which we enter when He decides to bring it and admit us to it.
to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me
drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 naked and you clothed me, ill
and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
This lists six of the seven corporal works of mercy: gave me food, gave
me drink, clothed me, welcomed me, comforted me, visited me. The
missing virtue is to bury the dead.
37 Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we
see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 When did
we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 When
did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
The “just” show surprise. They did these things because
they wanted to, not because they were trying to buy God off or force
40 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.’
Service of the needy is identified with the love of Christ. A
“least brother” is not necessarily a member of the
Christian community, but any human being.
41 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. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 a stranger and you gave me
no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and
you did not care for me.’ 44 Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or
naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45 He
will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for
one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’
These have failed to observe God’s family covenant. They have failed to care for their brothers.
46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
See Daniel 12:2.
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org