THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING
“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” Mt. 25: 35
This famous parable of the Sheep and the Goats is perhaps the most theatrical, the most moving, and the most memorable of all of Jesus’ teachings.
It is also his last.
The next words after this great drama in the gospel of Matthew read: “When Jesus finished saying all these things ….”
So, in his final lecture, the last of all his teachings, what did he most want us to remember? What is it he wanted to be absolutely certain we “got?”
First, notice what he doesn’t mention.
In his final words to us, Jesus says nothing about what doctrines we believe in, or how much success we’ve achieved, or how much wealth we’ve accumulated, or how much fame we’ve attained. He says nothing about all those monumental fears we spend so much time worrying about and fretting over.
Instead, he speaks only about our final destiny.
To do this, he creates a scene of immense drama. He brings together all the people of the world along with “all the angels,” and while “sitting upon his glorious throne,” he reveals the Great Secret hidden from the beginning of time – the secret about the only thing that truly matters in God’s mind: feeding people who are hungry, quenching their thirst, clothing their nakedness, caring for those who are sick, visiting the imprisoned.
In the midst of this entire heavenly drama, then, Jesus reveals as solemnly as only a King can what his ultimate concern is for all of humankind. And it turns out to be something you and I would never have guessed: it’s what Martin Luther King called “the Least, the Lost, and the Last.”
In fact, his final words to us become not just an instruction, but also an invitation: join Jesus by traveling to what Pope Francis calls “the outskirts;” join Jesus by standing at the margins of society and declaring our solidarity with those who are considered disposable; join Jesus in dedicating our lives to living in kinship with “the Least, the Lost and the Last.”
But then Jesus reveals an even greater secret: Jesus is the jailed one. Jesus is the hungry one. Jesus is the naked one – the immigrant that is homeless; the refugee that is abandoned; the war casualty that is tortured; the drug addict that is enslaved.
Jesus’ whole identity – who he is – is the King who has purposely chosen to leave his throne in the sky and identify totally with “the least of these.”
Today is celebrated as the Feast of Christ the King. This is ironic because Jesus never acted like a king. He embraced poverty, not wealth. He taught humility, not arrogance. He emphasized service, not domination. He chose a cross, not a palace.
His kingship lay only in his plea that we completely reverse our notion of what truly matters in life, and what will ultimately satisfy our heart’s greatest desires.
Kinship, instead of kingship – this is what Jesus is truly passionate about. Kinship with “the Least, the Lost and the Last.”
Notice, too, that in his revelation of his Great Secret, Jesus never uses big words like “justice,” or “democracy.” He keeps it real simple so none of us can claim we don’t understand what he’s saying. He simply talks about food, clothes, water, and shelter – the basics of life.
So, in his last words to us in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus is telling us in advance that when we each stand before our God, we won’t be given a test that will be confusing or difficult. It will instead involve only the most practical of questions: Did you feed the hungry? Did you shelter the homeless? Did you care for the sick? Did you reach out to those discarded by society?
And our answer will be …
Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.