Looking at, and thinking about,
this Gospel passage about the sheep and the goats,
it’s easy enough to see how this fits today’s feast of Christ the King:
Here he is, the King, summoning us before him for judgment.
How you and I treat one another
is how we treat the Lord Jesus, for good or ill.
That right there is a pretty powerful realization.
I remember vividly one day, before I was a priest,
before I was even in the seminary,
And I had gone to my parish for confession.
As I was driving back home, for whatever reason,
this passage came forcefully to mind; and all of a sudden,
I was thinking about all manner of ordinary things,
but through this lens: it wasn’t to other people
I’d been rude while driving, or who I had refused to help,
or had insulted or spoken ill of; it was the Lord himself!
And even though I’d just been to confession a few minutes before,
I felt like turning around and going right back!
So if nothing else, let that sink in:
how you and I treat each other, and strangers,
in Jesus’ eyes, is how we treat him. A powerful, powerful thought.
Life-changing if it really sinks in.
Still, there is another way the kingship of Jesus is shown
in this passage – do you see it?
It’s specifically in the actions of the sheep:
they feed and clothe and comfort those who are in need.
This shows the Kingdom, because when Jesus reigns completely,
over every kingdom and in every heart,
there will be no hunger, no deprivation, no one left out.
A powerful sign of the Kingdom is when you and I do these works;
and it is a betrayal of Christ to neglect them.
Having said that, let’s be clear about something else,
because the point I just made can be manipulated.
There are a lot of people who want to boil the Christian Faith
down, if you will, to social work.
In case you haven’t noticed,
this is especially popular with many politicians:
they will gladly call attention to their Catholic Faith,
but they will leave out pretty significant parts of the Faith.
Feed the hungry? Sure, here’s a government program!
Defend the lives of the unborn? Defend the truth about marriage?
Oh no, can’t do that! Somehow, that’s illegitimate.
The point I’m making is that this is not only about material needs.
That approach ends up deforming our understanding
of what it means to be human:
only this part matters, while this part, not so much.
That does violence to the truth of what God created,
and there’s no way that can be squared with this Gospel.
Let me specify exactly what I’m talking about:
The fact of the human race being male and female,
made for each other.
And please note my precise language: this is a fact, a scientific fact;
it is not a religious doctrine! Those who want to make a revolution,
want to suggest that this is merely a matter of our quaint beliefs,
our outdated beliefs, but no:
you’re male, you’re female, those are facts.
From this basic premise flows the true nature of marriage.
And also: that being male and female are not mere choices.
It should have been a scandal when Joe Biden, during the campaign,
said he was in favor of an 8-year-old child boy deciding he is a girl,
and therefore, the parent should give that child body-distorting drugs,
and perhaps, later even surgery, to “confirm” this confusion.
So, I realize this puts us in a tough spot,
because these ideas are winning everywhere,
and if you and I oppose them, we’re called “bigots.”
It’s getting worse by the day.
But there is no way the King can or will approve of us
giving people food and clothes, sure –
but meanwhile giving our approval, or remaining silent,
while people do mad things to themselves,
wrecking themselves and each other.
And since I mentioned Mr. Biden: it’s no secret
he didn’t get many votes around here, and a lot of us are pretty upset
at the idea he may be our next President.
It’s easy to have faith when things go right;
the challenge is keeping an even keel when things go wrong.
Nothing happened on Election Day, or any other day,
that Jesus Christ doesn’t know about, and cannot direct as he chooses, as he chooses.
As a priest-friend of mine says, “there’s a reason it’s called ‘faith.’”
So that highlights one more task each of us has:
Keeping steady, and keeping faithful, with the tasks before us.
One of those tasks is to pray for those who hold public office,
and to continue to speak out and be heard by them.
Notice once more: this Gospel does not show
Jesus holding the sheep and goats accountable
for the big-picture outcome.
No, he holds them accountable for choices they made
day-by-day in their ordinary lives.