Sunday November 22, Feast of Christ the King

Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46

I was naked and you clothed me; sick, and you visited me

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men and women one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

In this Gospel Jesus explains the wondrous truth of his divinity and humanity. He is the one who will take his seat on his throne of glory but at the same time identifies as the ‘least of our brothers and sisters’; the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our communities. 

I hear this reality of Jesus’ identity as an invitation to experience intimacy with God. He shows us how we can encounter the fullness of God and enter the mystery of eternal life. Through the works of mercy, namely service, such as welcoming strangers, clothing those with nothing, accompanying the sick and those in prison we encounter Jesus. He is not asking for service out of duty but service that flows from being in love with life and the hope that faith offers. These are sacred encounters and life giving works.

Mary Ward’s closest companions recount numerous examples of her acts of service. One that caught my eye most recently was of her rushing to visit a sister who had the plague in Vienna in 1628. 

When one of ours had the Plague in Vienna, and the rest dissuading and begging her of all loves not to go to her, she broke away seeming rather to fly than go.[1]

Today as covid-19, causes widespread suffering across the world the call to service is before us. So many health workers, cleaners, shop assistants, teachers, pastoral carers, aged care workers are courageously putting their lives at risk for others. Indeed, all of us are called to serve. Sacred encounters abound. 

In my prayer, I ask God for understanding of the works of mercy that I am called to at this time of crisis.

I pray that I enter into this service aware that I am being called into sacred encounters with Jesus, knowing that sacred service allows the Spirit to be generative and spread healing peace.

I ask for courage in the spirit of  Mary Ward and her companions.

[1] Christina Kenworthy- Browne CJ, ed. Mary Ward 1585-1645: A Briefe Relation with Autobiographical Fragments and a Selection of Letters (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2008, 82.