แผนกคริสตศาสนธรรม  อัครสังฆมณฑลกรุงเทพฯ



34th Sunday (Christ the King)
Ezekiel 34:11–12, 15–17; 1 Corinthians 15:20–26, 28; Matthew 25:31–46

The beggar king
We will be judged on how well we served Christ the King in the least of those among us.

In his book The Christian Vision, John Powell recalls an old Irish legend. It goes back to the time when kings ruled Ireland.

It seems that the reigning king had no children to succeed him on the throne. So he had his messengers post signs in every town and village of his kingdom inviting qualified young men
to apply for an interview with the king.

This way the king hoped to be able to choose a successor
before he died.

Two qualifications, especially, were stressed. The person must have a deep love for God and for his neighbor.

The young man around whom the legend centers saw one of the signs. He, indeed, had a deep love for God and neighbor.
He felt a kind of inner voice telling him to apply for an interview.

But the young man was so poor that he didn’t have decent clothes to wear to an interview. He also had no money to buy provisions for the long journey to the king’s castle.

So the young man prayed over the matter. He finally decided to beg for the clothes and the provisions he needed.

When everything was ready, he set out. After a month of travel, one day the young man caught sight of the king’s
castle. It sat high on a hill in the distance.

At about the same time, he also caught sight of a poor old beggar sitting by the side of the road. The beggar held out his hands and pleaded for help.
I’m hungry and cold, he said in a weak voice.
Could you give me something warm to wear and something nourishing to eat?

The young man was moved by the sight of the beggar.
He stripped off his warm outer clothes and exchanged them
for the tattered old coat of the beggar.
He also gave the beggar most of the provisions
he had been carrying in his backpack for the return journey.

Then, somewhat uncertainly, he walked on to the castle in tattered clothes and without enough food for his return trip.

When the young man arrived at the castle, guards met him at the gate. They took him to the visitors’ area. After a long wait,
the young man was led in to see the king.

He bowed low before the throne. When he straightened up,
the young man could hardly believe his eyes. He said to the king, You were the beggar beside the road.

That’s right, said the king.

Why’d you do this to me? asked the young man.

I had to find out, said the king, if you really did love God and neighbor.
Even though this is a fictitious story, its point is absolutely valid. It’s the same point that today’s readings especially the gospel make:

You and I will be judged at the end of life on how well we served Christ the King in the least of our brothers and sisters.
Recall Jesus’ words in the gospel reading:

Then the King will say. . . “I was hungry and you fed me,
thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes . . . I was sick and you took care
 of me. . . .”

The righteous will then answer him, “When, Lord. did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink?. .”

The King will reply, “I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important. . . of mine, you did it for me!”

To concretize the point of Jesus’ words, a Chicago teacher asked his students, When was the last time you helped someone
who needed help? Here are the responses three students gave:

When I was on the Roosevelt Road bus Friday, a man carrying several bulky boxes got on. I offered him my seat. He declined, but asked me if I would hold some of the boxes for him. I did, and he was very thankful.

About two weeks ago I was sitting on a bus next to a crazy lady.
She wanted someone to talk to, so I treated her kindly and listened to her.

I can’t remember when I helped someone I didn’t know.
I really feel bad about that. If it has been so long ago I can’t remember, maybe there’s something wrong with me. Maybe I have closed my eyes to needy people.

We might ask ourselves the same question the teacher asked the students: When was the last time we helped someone
who needed help?

What would be our answer?
Would we be like the first two students?
Or would we be like the third one who couldn’t remember?

What about helping members of our family?
When was the last time  we volunteered to help them with something?

What about neighbors or people in this parish?
When was the last time we went out of our way to help them when they were in need?

Why don’t we open our hearts more to the poor, the lonely, the needy, regardless of who they are and where they live?

What might we do to change this right now, beginning today?

Today’s readings bring to a close the liturgical year of the Church.

And of all the readings this year, few have a message
that is more important than today’s. Today’s message is so important because it concerns what we will be judged on
at the end of our lives.

We will be judged on how well we served Christ the King
in the least important among us.

Let me close with a few lines from a poem by Brewer Mattocks. It reads:

The parish priest of Austerity Climbed up in a high church steeple To be nearer God So that he might hand His word
 down to His people. . . .

Then one day, indeed, he heard God speak.

And he cried out from the steeple,
“Where art thou, Lord?” And the Lord replied, “Down here among my people.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Series II

34th Sunday (Christ the King)
Ezekiel 34:11–12, 15–17; 1 Corinthians 15:20–26, 28; Matthew 25:31–46

Call of the King
Christ the King looks for followers who will labor with him to complete his Father’s kingdom.

The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius are a famous set of meditations. Written 400 years ago, they’ve changed the lives of millions of people. One of the meditations is entitled “The Call of the King.” It’s made up of two parts.

The first part concerns a great earthly leader who puts out
a call for volunteers to join him in a great and noble cause.
If we updated the imagery Saint Ignatius used, it would go something like this:

Imagine that a dynamic young leader emerges. It is clear
to all that this leader is not only immensely talented but also  genuinely dedicated to helping others, especially the poor
and the powerless.

The young leader’s appeal cuts across every ethnic and economic group. Everyone trusts him. Everyone recognizes
that the “hand of God” rests on his shoulder.

Imagine that this leader appears on television and addresses the nation. With remarkable insight and compassion, he spells out programs for eradicating injustice and corruption, freeing our cities of crime, reforming our prison system, and erasing poverty.

Even the most realistic politicians are amazed at his grasp of the problems and his insight into how to deal with them.
They conclude that if anyone can transform society, this young person can do it.

The leader concludes his address by appealing for volunteers
to join him in his great and noble cause.

And so the first half of the meditation ends with Saint Ignatius asking this question of those making his spiritual exercises:

Would you help such a leader? Would you give freely
of yourself, your time, and your money to advance his cause?
If we were to look for a modern example of such a leader,
we could hardly do better than to point to Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Years ago she began working alone among the poorest of the poor and the lowest of the low in the slums of Calcutta, India.
She spent every cent she had on an old shack, turning it into a school for small children. It had no tables, no desks, no chairs.
Mother Teresa’s chalkboard was the shack’s dirt floor, which she rubbed smooth with an old rag and wrote on with a pointed stick.

Mother Teresa’s example attracted other young women.
In 1950 the Holy Father gave her permission to found the Missionaries of Charity.

During a period when other religious orders dwindled in numbers, her order grew rapidly. It now has over 3,000 nuns and brothers, working among the poor in over 70 countries.
And over 3 million volunteers assist them.

Recent figures indicate that Mother Teresa’s single dirt-floor school has expanded to 100 fully equipped schools, 750 mobile medical units, 120 leprosy clinics,  and 150 homes for abandoned street people. Her most recent undertakings included setting up a home in New York City for abandoned victims of the AIDS virus.

Mother Teresa was proof that the psychology behind Saint Ignatius’ famous meditation is as valid today as it was 400 years ago.
People are still attracted by noble leaders. They are still moved to greatheartedness by noble causes. They are still looking for someone like Mother Teresa to inspire them and to motivate them.
We began by saying that St. Ignatius’ meditation has two parts. Let’s begin our look at the second part with an example.

In 1976, which was the bicentennial year of our nation’s
birth, a musical entitled 1776 was playing to full houses
on Broadway.

The play dealt with those critical days in our nation’s history
when our forefathers debated whether or not to declare their independence from England.

At one point in the debate, the future of our nation was like a great tottering wall. It could fall backward into the past and continued domination by England or forward into the future
to newfound hope and freedom.

One night John Adams was terribly worried about the outcome. Standing all alone in the darkness of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the great debate was raging,
he began to sing in words like these:

Is anyone out there? Does anyone care? Does anyone see what
I see?
This brief introduction sets the stage for the second part of St. Ignatius’meditation on “The Call of the King.”

This part consists in applying the example of the leader in the first part of the meditation to Christ the King, whose feast we celebrate today.

Like John Adams in the musical 1776, Christ the King, king of heaven and earth, stands alone in the darkness of today’s world. Like John Adams in the musical 1776, he sings a song,
hoping that greathearted people will hear him and join him in his cause:

Is anyone out there? Does anyone care? Does anyone see what
 I see?

The second part of Saint Ignatius’ meditation ends with Christ the King doing what the earthly leader did in the first part. He asks you and me the same question that the earthly leader asked.

Will you join me in my cause?

Will you join me in my work of feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, clothing the naked, and caring for the sick?

Will you join me in my work of changing the world, of bringing faith, hope, and love back into the hearts of
people everywhere?

This is the message of today’s feast. This is the message of today’s gospel.

It’s a call from Christ the King to join him in the great task
of bringing to completion God’s kingdom in today’s world.
It’s a call to change the world.
It’s a call to take, at least, the first step by changing our own personal lives, at home and at work, so that they reflect more perfectly Christ’s teaching in the Gospel.

It’s a call to step out of the darkness and to say yes to Christ the King as he sings:

Is anyone out there? Does anyone care? Does anyone see what
I see?

Series III
34th Sunday (Christ the King)
Ezekiel 34:11–12, 15–17; 1 Corinthians 15:20–26, 28; Matthew 25:31–46

The Judgment
Not only on what we did, but also on what we did not do.
When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger and would not help you?” Matthew 25:44

Martin Sheen’s life reads like a Hollywood movie script.
He grew up in poverty in Dayton, Ohio. One of ten children, he was born to a Spanish immigrant father and an Irish mother.

He said the thing that influenced him most in boyhood years
was the compassion of the nuns who taught him in grade school. They truly lived the faith they professed.

Eventually,Martin got into acting, landed in Hollywood,
and became a top-flight star, with major roles in such blockbuster films as Gandhi and Apocalypse Now.
As success took over his life, so did materialism. He got and enjoyed everything money could buy. That went on for 16 years.

Then came the filming of Gandhi in India. One day he was riding in a taxi when several kids hitched a ride, hanging on the outside of his cab.

As he looked at their faces grinning through the cab window,
he saw that their teeth were gone, their clothes were ragged,
and their hair was full of bugs. He said:

I suddenly knew what I had to do. I stopped the cab and put them inside.

The total poverty, misery, and hopelessness of these kids took him back to his own childhood.

That episode got him thinking about what he had learned as
a boy in a Catholic school and a Catholic family: we are all members of Christ’s Body.

Then came a second episode that got him thinking even more deeply. While filming Apocalypse Now in the Philippines, he suffered a heart attack.

Commenting on the impact it had on his thinking, he said in an interview,

That the actor in Apocalypse Now, died and was buried in the Philippines. The actor to whom you are talking now is not the same one who did that film.

I t took four more years for him to rejoin the Catholic Church.  When he finally did, it was with an intensity and dedication to his faith that can only be described as amazing.

He says he still smokes and gambles and loves comfort, cars, and honors. But he knows he must work to let go of them.

We’re not here by accident, he said. Christ taught us that we must love our neighbor as ourself. And look at how I treat my neighbor, compared to how I treat myself!

God did not intend me to live in splendor while two-thirds
of the world live in poverty We Americans are less than
10 percent of the world’s population, yet we use over 50 percent of the world’s resources.

Somebody has to live worse off so that we can live better off.
They’re carrying our lifestyle on their backs.

Sheen credits his wife for getting him to take seriously the fact that he will be judged after death, not only for what he did, but also for what he did not do. She told him,

Look at the hungry. Look at the naked. Look at the homeless.
We must do something about them.

This brings our focus back to each one of us here. How can we apply today’s Gospel and Sheen’s conversion experience
to our own lives? We might begin this way.

When we were baptized, the priest anointed us with oil.
The name we bear “Christian” comes from the word Christ,
which means “the anointed one.”

By our anointing we were given a participation in Christ’s three missions as prophet, priest, and king.

Our prophetic mission empowers us to bear witness to the Gospel. Our priestly mission empowers us to offer ourselves at Mass with Christ to the Father.

Our kingly mission empowers us to work for the advancement
of God’s Kingdom on earth.
And so we can make this application. Because of his death and resurrection Christ can no longer walk about on earth in a flesh-and-blood body.

He can no longer teach people, love people, and heal people
with his own hands, feet, and heart as he did 2,000 years ago.

If the least of his brothers and sisters are to experience his loving touch, his healing hands, and his forgiving words,
it has to be through us.

This means that the Kingdom of God, which he began on earth, must be continued and advanced by us. This is what
the feast of Christ the King  is all about.

It’s about celebrating Christ’s kingship by exercising our own kingship, which he shared with us  when we were anointed in Baptism.

Today’s readings bring to an end the liturgical year of the Church. And of all the readings of the year, few have a more important message.

For today’s readings drive home the message that impacted Martin Sheen so profoundly, namely, that we will be judged after death by how well we carried out the threefold mission
for which we were anointed in baptism.

We will be judged on how well we served Christ our King, especially in his least brothers and sisters.
Let’s close with these lines from a poem by Brewer Mattocks. It reads:

The parish priest of Austerity Climbed up in a high church steeple To be nearer God So that he might hand His word
 down to his people.

Then one day, a voice sounded from far away. It was the voice of God the voice the priest had waited and waited to hear.

And so he climbed further up to the very tip of the steeple
and shouted into the arching sky above it:

“Where art thou, Lord?” And the Lord replied “Down here among my people.”