Q: Archbishop J, why do the readings become so dramatic around this time?
The Church has its own rhythm. It sees the year as a sacred rhythm in which the key mysteries can receive the attention they need, and the full truth of the gospel can be reflected upon.
In this rhythm, the year has a beginning and an ending. It starts with Advent when we prepare for the coming of Christ. It ends fittingly with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Christ is king of the living and the dead.
To prepare for this ending, the Church reflects upon apocalyptic literature in the gospels and, of course, the Book of Revelation.
This literature focuses on Christ’s coming and, in this way, invites us to consider the beginning and the middle of our journey. Are we living as Christ invites us to live? Are we ready to meet Christ if He comes today?
Stephen Covey, in his best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People proposes as the second habit: “Begin with the end in mind”. This is the invitation of the Church during this ending of the liturgical year.
As you prepare for a new year, what is the ending that you would like to have for your life? Covey asks his readers to imagine their funeral. See a family member and a co-worker giving your eulogy. What could they truthfully say about you? Is it the end you desire? If not, begin today to work towards the ending that you would love to have for your life.
Let us do another meditation. Imagine you have died and find yourself in the presence of the Trinity. What is the feeling—awe and wonder? Or fear and shame?
Stand there and listen to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit talking about you, each, in turn. They speak about your good qualities and your weaknesses, the ways you lived the faith generously for God and the ways you lived just for yourself? Listen carefully. How does it make you feel?
You are given a chance to go back to earth and a second chance to get it right. Or you could stay and face whatever decision they take? What would you do? Are you ready to be with Him forever? This is critical because we will one day die and face God. On that day, we will not have a second chance.
Christ the King
Pope Pius XI saw the threat of secularism and wrote the encyclical letter Quas primas, (In the First) 1925. In the letter, he introduces the Feast of Christ the King and calls us to subject all of our being to Christ. In the encyclical he says:
“If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God.”
The whole of our being needs to be subject to Christ. Our faculties, our mind, our will, our heart, our bodies and all its members. This is a great reflection for us as we come to the end of this liturgical year and begin preparation for the coming of Christ. Is Christ Lord of every dimension of my life? If not, what do I need to do so next year I grow in submission to Christ in all areas of my life?
What kind of king?
The idea of Christ as king is vital. But we must remember Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18:36). He is not the kind of king we are accustomed to. By giving us free will, Christ gives us the capacity to belong to His Kingdom and to choose whom we will serve. This choice is most precious.
Pope Francis, four years, ago instituted the World Day of the Poor. It falls on the Sunday before Christ the King. It is meant to stir us to faith and remind us that it was Jesus who said that He is to be recognised in the distressing disguise of the poor (Mt 25: 35–40). If Christ is King, then His Kingdom is a Kingdom of conscience, of love and of compassion.
In the Parable of the Talents, the master gives talents to three servants, according to their capacity (Mt 25:14–30). The third man buries his one talent because he is afraid. Although he had experienced the extreme generosity of his master, he could not imagine the extent of his master’s giving.
This is who God is and that is why there is a constant invitation to love and to open every area of our life to love God and others. This man was condemned because he could not receive love; he could not believe in love and, like Adam, who heard God coming, he was afraid and so hid.
As we come to the end of the liturgical year, let us hear God coming, let us go with confidence to encounter Christ and beg Him to transform us all, as we surrender to His will.
The end of the liturgical year is a gift to us to reflect and prepare to encounter Christ more deeply.
Do the meditations that are above in our text.
Mt 25: 14–30