Feast of Christ the King
Ezekiel 34.11-12, 15-17
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Today is the feast of Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday. The mental images that the words “king” and “reign” bring to mind are based on our knowledge of the actions of kings and political leaders. Today’s first reading from the prophet Ezekiel gives us God’s view of leadership. The image of the shepherd is commonly used to portray monarchs in biblical literature. So, if we think of Christ the King as Christ the Good Shepherd, we have a truer sense of what this day is about.
Now, Ezekiel lived during the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 BC and during the early years of the Babylonian exile. Through Ezekiel, God is saying that the “shepherds” have not taken care of the “flock” so that they are “scattered,” that is, sent into exile. Later in this chapter, Ezekiel portrays the leaders as stronger sheep who trample the pasture and dirty the water that others must use, and who push the weaker aside.
If we look at what’s happening around the world today, Syria, Iraq, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Hungary, Columbia, Myanmar and, if one is an Indigenous Person, the Americas. The people who wield the power push the weaker aside, “trample,” destroy or confiscate their lands and pollute their life sustaining water. Where will it all end?
Ezekiel tells us that God says “but the fat and the strong I will destroy.” To give you an idea of why we should have faith and hope, I’ll relate a bit of a conversation that I had with my colleague Jūn. I wondered aloud how corporations could think they would survive and make profits when all of them seem to be downsizing and working to impoverish the majority of the people. These fat cats are against a living wage; engage in union-busting; and export jobs to bolster profits. I asked who’s going to be able to buy their stuff? Jūn said something quite profound and speaks to what God is saying. The ultra capitalists are going to feed on each other, thereby destroying themselves. Ezekiel reassures the exiles –and us– that God intends to uphold the covenant with his people and will restore a remnant of the people to the land and with a new Temple at its center.
As 21st century people, we must consider how the land, water and the very air we breathe are under threat because we have forgotten that God’s life-giving breath flows through everyone and everything. Can we think of the flora, fauna, mountains, rivers, streams, oceans and all that makes up our Earth as manifestations as the presence of God in our midst? Likewise, can we remember that we are all made in God’s image? If the answer to these two questions is ‘yes’ then we can also come to realize that Creation, all of Creation, is God’s Temple. Would we still be able to turn away any part of Creation in need?
God’s promises are accomplished through us. We can work to realize God’s design to soothe the Earth and heal the waters. We can work to not only to gather and restore the outcasts but to nourish them and help them to flourish. Yes, there will be cloudy and dark days, windy and stormy ones, which scatter us like sheep. The dark times may have sent some of us to various distant places—figuratively and in reality– for sustenance and/or safety. God’s promises are accomplished through us in two ways: first, in communities of good-hearted people; and, second in the teachings of communities of faith. All communities of faith have teachings on aligning ourselves with the heart and will of God. An example is the presence of “golden rule” variants of the different faiths. For us, as Christians it is the Gospel. Today’s reading from Matthew, for example, is the basis of the first six of the Corporal Works of Mercy, which are:
- To feed the hungry.
- To give drink to the thirsty.
- To clothe the naked.
- To shelter the homeless.
- To visit the sick.
- To visit the imprisoned.
The classical term for the last one was “To ransom the captive.” However, the status of many in the world today, make it appropriate to reclaim this understanding. This sixth work of mercy refers to the compassionate act of kindness and comfort to victims of imprisonment, captivation or other forms of either just and unjust confinement or seclusion, such as people in sanctuary, prison or jail, and refugee camps.
Now the works of mercy may seem like a tall order but we help bring about the Reign of Christ, with each act of kindness and love, each act of creativity, each act of speaking truth. It is small acts performed in our daily lives that reflect God within us, God who is Love, Creativity and Truth beyond our comprehension. Each prayer and action for more peace, love and justice in our world is the Spirit of God working in us; the Spirit of God working in us to bring about the Reign of Christ.
The Reverend Doctor Victoria Marie was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and came to Canada in 1965 at age 20. She is a founding member of the Vancouver Catholic Worker, Coast Salish Territory, a member of the Roman Catholic Woman Priest movement and pastor of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Community (OLGT) in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, British Columbia.