Christ the King

This coming Sunday is the celebration of the Solemnity of the Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – commonly known as Christ the King Sunday. While the formal declaration of the feast only dates to 1925, it origin of the consideration of Christ as King dates back to the patriotic period of the Church appearing in the writings of Cyril of Jerusalem, but is also found in the Gospel of Matthew 28 which Cyril saw as part of his foundation of thought. The celebration, originally placed in October, has an eschatological dimension pointing to the end of time when the kingdom of Jesus will be established in all its fullness to the ends of the earth. It leads into Advent. Attention to the nature of the Advent reading reveals anticipation of the second coming of Jesus. A detailed commentary can be found in Matthew 25:31-46.

31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32 and all the nations will be assembled before him. 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. 34 Then the king will say 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.’ 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?’ 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.’ 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.’ 46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Mt 25:31-46)

For the final three Sundays of ordinary time, the gospel readings come from Matthew 25:

32nd Sunday: The Wise and Foolish Maidens (vv. 1-13)
33rd Sunday: The Parable of the Talents (also of the Three Servants; vv. 14-30)
Christ the King: The Judgment of the Nations (vv. 31-46)

It should also be noted that Mt 24:45-51, The Faithful and Unfaithful Servants, which comes immediately before the parable the Wise and Foolish Maidens, carries many of the same themes as do the two subsequent parables. However, it is not used as a Sunday gospel. These readings are the conclusion of Jesus fifth discourse (Mt 24:3-25:46).

Judgment of the Nations. From Mt 24:45 up until Mt 25:30, there is a building sense of readiness, preparation, responsible action, and more that lead to the door step of Matthew’s great judgment scene, often simply described as separating the sheep and the goats: 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. And as we all know, you do not want to be a goat.

In the language of scripture scholars, it is an eschatological scene.  A description from the word eschatology meaning the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind. As the intervening parables come after Matthew’s little apocalypse we should not be surprised that the sacred author moves to the judgment upon the nations. The Parable of the Talent’s repeated invitation, Come, share your master’s joy (vv. 21, 23), points to eternal glory. The language directed at the wicked and lazy servant and his ultimate fate described in v. 30 (And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.)uses the eschatological terms that have become familiar from other judgment sayings and parables (8:12; 22:13; cf. 13:42, 50; 24:51).

Even though the story compares the Son of Man to a shepherd, it probably should not be classed as a parable, since the judgment is presented in a direct and straightforward way. When the Son of Man comes in his glory, he will divide all the nations into two groups. Those who have done good deeds for one of these least brothers of mine will be blessed, but those who have failed to do these deeds for one of these least ones will be condemned.

More of the detailed commentary can be found here

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