This time, last year, a group of us from the parish were on pilgrimage in the Holy Land. On the solemnity of Christ the King, we joined the local Catholic Community at the Church of the Annunciation, in Beit Jala, which is part of Bethlehem. It was a joyous and uplifting celebration. At the offertory, the children processed into the church and all were wearing crowns following someone carrying a large picture of Christ the King. At that Mass, I felt a great sense of being united in Jesus, the Lord of love, who truly reigns in our hearts.
It was fitting that we should have been in Bethlehem for this feast, as Bethlehem is known as the City of David who was the shepherd king. Jesus is the new shepherd king of the entire universe. In the first reading for this feast today, Ezekiel gives us a parable of the shepherds and the sheep. The prophet speaks out about the shepherds of the people of Israel, their leaders, who have misled the people. That is why they are in exile. Ezekiel tells them that God will punish the shepherds and take care of the sheep himself. He will tend them and care for them. He will seek out those who have strayed and care for the sick and the injured. The prophet also warned “As for you, my sheep, the Lord says this: I will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.” In the Gospel today, we see Jesus carrying out what Ezekiel had threatened, the separation of the sheep and the goats.
In the reading of St Paul’s first letter to Corinthians, he reminds us we are not without any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which will keep us ‘steady and without blame until the last day’ These gifts of the Holy Spirit enable us to carry out the work of bringing about God’s Kingdom of love, justice and peace.
There will be individual judgement for us all. The Lord is kind and merciful and always cares for his flock and will continue to do so but we have a responsibility to care for one another. In the Gospel today, the emphasis is on the corporeal works of mercy. What is asked of us is a loving response to people’s most basic needs; food, water, clothing, shelter and, as the recent pandemic lockdowns have shown, human care and tenderness. What Jesus is talking about here are sins of omission, failing to do works of mercy.
When we have failed to love our neighbour in these ways, we have failed to love God.
P.S. Thank you to all who sent messages, cards and prayers on the occasion of my 70th birthday. I was deeply touched by your thoughtfulness.