This weekend the Church celebrates the Feast of Christ, the King of the Universe. At first glance, the gospel reading does not reflect our temporal image of kingliness.
We are presented with a king who identifies with the lowly, the dispossessed, the despised, the imprisoned. The irony of this image, however, lies in the fact that true vision, true leadership, true caring have a value that far surpasses the trappings of wealth and power.
Indeed, the internet has given the world an insight into the rot behind much of the veneer and mystique that surround many of our earthly ‘kings’, whatever form their ‘kingship’ assumes.
People of faith, of all religions, recognise and practise the divine command that we attend to the needs of the poor, the hungry, the naked and the homeless. This is a major aspect of the work of The Society of St Vincent de Paul, the soup kitchens, the breadlines, the churches, temples, and mosques of our land.
We have ministries and other organisations that reach out to the imprisoned. Ministries to our migrant brothers and sisters have sprung up to ensure that those fleeing misery and a hopeless future find warmth, understanding and material relief in our land.
Yet, the question remains and perplexes the heart—do we see in these people, for whom we are performing vital work, the face of Christ? This may seem a harsh and even unforgivable demand for examination of individual and organisational conscience, yet it remains. It is not easy for any of us to embrace those who do not fit our perception of what is desirable or socially acceptable.
Our body language, the tone of voice we use to address the beneficiaries of our generosity, the choice of the clothes and food that we give away, help each of us to decide if we see the face of Christ in our brethren.
None of us can judge for anyone else. It is personal, sometimes painful introspection that helps us to move nearer to recognising the Saviour’s face. Our path to holiness is not an easy one but there exist unheralded saints among us, even now.
Our nation needs to conduct such an examination, too. The shouted insults, the low wages, the condemnation that we heap on the heads of the refugees from Venezuela illustrate the ugly aspect of too many of our people who flout their ‘superiority’ over our unfortunate and suffering neighbours.
Our recognition of the King must extend to recognising our duty to His other creatures and to the wider environment with which He has entrusted us. From pre-Divali, through Christmas and past the start of the New Year, the indiscriminate, uncaring setting off fireworks and such incendiary devices creates extreme discomfort and anxiety for affected communities.
Equally reprehensible, the sudden loud explosions create terror and havoc for domestic and wild animals. The heartbreaking stories of lost and killed animals and the trauma suffered by the animals and their owners fill the pet pages on the internet.
We cannot claim to love and serve the Lord if, year after year, we treat with contempt other creatures that He has made and which He also loves.
The recent devastating hurricanes and typhoons that have caused indescribable suffering and loss in Honduras, Guatemala and the Philippines attest to our global neglect and destruction of our common heritage. We are all paying a terrible price.
As we approach Advent, may we grow in wisdom and submission to the will of the King of the Universe.