Solemnity of Christ the King Year A
(26 November 2017)
Ezk 34:11-12, 15-17; Ps 23:1-3, 5-6; 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28 and Mt 25:31-46
Theme: Giving Loving-Kindness
Most of us live under a democracy today and our image of a king is what we have read in history books or in fairy tales or have seen in movies. In today’s readings we are given the images of Christ as a special kind of king – one who is a shepherd and a judge, among others.
The image of a “shepherd” is a common metaphor in the Near East and in the Bible. In the Hebrew Scriptures, it is used to refer to leaders or kings (2 Sam 5:2) or to God (Gen 48:15). Jesus also used the title as he calls himself “the good shepherd.” (Jn 10:11).
In the reading from Ezekiel, God speaking in the first person “I” enumerates the acts of a shepherd: I will look after and tend my sheep (34:11), I will tend my flock among the scattered sheep (v. 12a), I will rescue them (v. 12c), I will pasture my sheep (v 15), I will give them rest (v.15b), I will seek out the lost (v. 16), I will bring back the strayed (v. 16b), I will bind up the injured (v. 16c), I will heal the sick (v.16d), I will shepherd them rightly (v. 16e), I will judge my sheep (v.17).
Psalm 23 which begins with the famous statement, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Ps 23:1), lists what God does as a shepherd in the eyes of a believer: He gives repose (v. 2), He leads to peaceful places - to relax and refresh (v. 2), He guides (v. 3), He “spread the table” – gives a banquet or feeds (v. 5) and He anoints or empowers (v. 5).
In the Gospel, the Son of Man, a title Jesus used to refer to himself, will sit “on the throne of his glory” (Mt 25:31) and as king (v. 34) will judge and separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (v. 31b).
Those judged as sheep will be blessed to inherit the kingdom of God and they are those who gave food to the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed strangers, clothed the naked, took care of the sick and visited those in prison.
In Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Matthew, Harrington says that except for visiting prisoners, the services rendered are in the Jewish list of good works (Imprisonment was then rare among the Jews because they did not build jails). My sense is that this is because Jesus and his first disciples were Jews and they must have practiced “gemilut chassadim.”
Literally, meaning “the giving of loving-kindness,” gemilut chassadim is a fundamental social value in the everyday lives of Jews. It is a mitzvah (a command and precept) that an individual completes gemilut chassadim without anticipating receiving something in return. There is no fixed measure of gemilut chassadim, which is one reason why rabbinic teachers articulate the importance of doing it all the time. Some examples of gemilut chassadim are the ones enumerated in Matthew’s Gospel like clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and visiting the sick as well as assisting brides and grooms, burying the dead, comforting mourners, granting free loans, among others.
Scholars have debated whether there is a limited meaning of who are to be judged and for whom service is to be rendered. Does the Gospel refer to the judging only of the Gentiles (nonJews and nonChristians)? Do the “least of these who are members of my family” refer only to Christians (missionaries and disciples)?
The usual interpretation, however, has been broad and universal. We are all to be judged and we are all called to give loving kindness to people in distress and in need to sum up, God is the king who shepherds his flock and he is to judge everyone according to his/her deeds. But judgment will not be based on awesome or amazing feats but on the services rendered for those needing them. In the end, it pays to be loving and kind.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1) Looking back on your life so far, do you consider yourself a sheep or a goat? 2) What are loving acts of kindness you have done? 3) Can we teach and spread kindness? If yes, how?
Bibliography: Harrington, Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Matthew (Minnesota, 2007), The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible in https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+25&version=NRSV;
This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumna July 2014
PLEASE NOTE: The weekly Gospel commentaries represent the research and creative thought of their authors, and are meant to stimulate deeper thinking about the meaning of the Sunday Scriptures. While they draw upon the study methods and sources employed by the Bat Kol Institute, the views and conclusions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of their authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Bat Kol. Questions, comments and feedback are always welcome.
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