Today’s readings: Ezekiel, 34,11-12.15-17; 1 Corinthians, 15,20-26.28; Matthew 25,31-46
The history of humanity has seen a long succession of empires that rise and fall and that have impacted humankind for better or for worse. Worldly power structures are always prone to cling to power and cease to be tools of justice to enhance the common good of humanity. This even happened to the Church whenever it gave in to temptations of power.
The kingdom of Christ we celebrate today, and as it is portrayed in today’s Scripture texts, projects an alternative kingdom, radically different and founded not on power but on love, fraternity and attending to the needs of the most vulnerable. This dream of Christ for a different kingdom seemed shipwrecked on Calvary but was resuscitated in the communion on which the communities of his disciples were founded and flourished.
The reality around us is what it is, but it is not necessarily the last word. In today’s reading from Corinthians, St Paul writes about the coming of Christ “when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power”. Christ as king distinguishes himself from earthly politics, and as saviour of humanity, “he has put all his enemies under his feet”.
Humanity is tired of empires and ideologies that promise heaven on earth and deliver hell instead. It has always been like that since time immemorial, as the prophet Ezekiel shows in the first reading. His harsh analysis of the shepherds (kings) of his time who used their power and office to exploit rather than to rule, is balanced with hopeful imagination of a restored political order when the Lord himself would intervene “to look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded, and make the weak strong”.
This is what we all look forward to even in our times when society and culture are replete with contradictions: with gross domestic product going up and yet many more have less; with greater concentrations of wealth because of a faulty redistribution system; with the poor becoming poorer and the rich richer; and with the most vulnerable so often displaced in the political economy. The pandemic now is only unmasking old systems deeply rooted in a hedonist and individualistic culture.
As Pope Francis writes in his recent letter on fraternity, “the fragility of world systems in the face of the pandemic has demonstrated that not everything can be resolved by market freedom”. Today’s gospel re-proposes the radical foundations for a caring and just society, a founding charter not just for Christians, but for a civic and political action that can lay the foundations for a better world. Politics, noble as it can be, becomes oppressive and defeats its purpose when it does not put the human person at the centre, especially the most needy and vulnerable.
On the feast of Christ the King, the Scriptures point to a kingdom focussed on attending to the hungry, the stranger, the dispossessed, the sick and prisoners. With the words “You did it to me”, St Matthew underlines the fact that every human being is created in God’s own image and likeness and that the only God we can imagine and venerate is the God with a human face. Any imagination beyond this amounts to idolatry.
The utterance of hope, as epitomised in the reading from Ezekiel, calls on us to mediate a transformed reality. Not unlike the society of ancient Jerusalem, contemporary society is at the brink of despair. In a time of increasing social tension, with the poor being simply the by-product of development and progress, and with our economies crucified, our dream is to bring God back into play and recover the foundations for a caring and just society.
In this last major discourse of his Gospel, St Matthew is stating that the poor and vulnerable stand on the judgement seat to establish who we really are. Religion is futile without justice.
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