INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR

The feast of Christ our King, which we celebrate today, brings to an end the Church’s liturgical year. When we think of a king we think of someone who lords it over his people. But Christ is not like that. He came to serve, not to be served. Let us pause to examine our loyalty to him. [Pause]

The one thing he wants from us is that we imitate him.

Lord, you say to us: ‘Follow me and love one another’. Lord have mercy.

You say to us: ‘Follow me and share with one another’. Christ, have mercy.

You say to us: ‘Follow me and forgive (me another’. Lord, have mercy.

HEADINGS FOR READINGS

First Reading (Ezekiel 34:11-12.15-17). God is portrayed, not so much as a judge of his people, but as someone who cares for them as a good shepherd cares for his sheep.

Second Reading (1 Cor 1520-2628). At the end of the world Christ will reign as universal King, having overcome all hostile forces, including death.

Gospel (Matthew 25:31-46). This contains Matthew’s great scene of the Last Judgment.

Reading 1 EZ 34:11-12, 15-17

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.

As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD,
I will judge between one sheep and another,
between rams and goats.

Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Reading 2 1 COR 15:20-26, 28

Brothers and sisters:
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through man,
the resurrection of the dead came also through man.
For just as in Adam all die,
so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
but each one in proper order:
Christ the firstfruits;
then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;
then comes the end,
when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father,
when he has destroyed every sovereignty
and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
When everything is subjected to him,
then the Son himself will also be subjected
to the one who subjected everything to him,
so that God may be all in all.

Alleluia MK 11:9, 10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For 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.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”

HOMILY

People’s basic material needs have to be taken care of before any kind of higher life is possible. Christ said that his followers would be judged on their response to those needs. But today in many countries these needs, by and large, have been taken care of. Does this mean that the words of Christ are no longer relevant? N o indeed, for the Bible says we do not live on bread alone, that is, on material things alone. We have many other needs.

Mother Teresa says: ‘The biggest disease in the world today is not leprosy or TB, but the feeling of being unwanted and uncared for. The greatest evil in the world is lack of love, the terrible indifference towards one’s neighbour. What the poor (and not just the poor) need even more than food, clothes, and shelter, is to he wanted.’ Hence, the immortal words of Christ are as relevant today as ever. What we need to do, perhaps, is to restate them. What follows is an attempt at doing this.

‘Then the King will say to those on his left hand, “Depart from me for I was hungry, not for food but for a smile, and all I got from you was sour looks. I was hungry for a word of encouragement, but all you did was point out my mistakes. I was hungry for a word of appreciation, but you didn’t give me so much as a crumb.

“I was thirsty, not for drink, but for a word of recognition, but all you did nag and give out to me. I was thirsty for a sign of friendship, but you ignored me. I was thirsty for a little companionship, but you never gave me a drop.

“I was a stranger, no, not a foreigner, but just someone who was different from you, and you refused to have anything to do with ‘me. I was a child and you forbade your children to play with me because my clothes were dirty. I was a neighbour and you wouldn’t allow me into your club because I wasn’t in your class.

“I was naked, not because I lacked clothes, but because I lacked self-worth, and you refused to cover me. I was stripped of self confidence and you made me feel the chill wind of your dismissal. I was naked from the loss of my good name through a story that was not true, and you refused to clothe me with the garment of truth.

“I was sick, not in body, but with doubt and worry, and you never even noticed. I was wounded by failure and disappointment, and you couldn’t care less. I was sunk in a pit of depression, desperately needing the medicine of hope, and all you did was blame me.

“I was in prison, not in one made of iron bars, but in a prison of nerves, and you shunned me. I was in a prison of loneliness and you gave me the cold shoulder. Iwas in a prison of guilt. You could have set me free by forgiving me, but you let me languish there to punish me.

“I was homeless, not for want of a home made of bricks and mortar, but for the want of tenderness and affection, and you left me out in the cold. I was homeless for the want of sympathy and understanding, and you treated me as if I was a block of wood. I was homeless for want of care, love, and acceptance, and you locked me out of your heart”.

‘Then the King will turn to those on his right hand and say: “Come, you have been blessed by my Father, receive the Kingdom that has been prepared for you since the foundation of the world.

For I was hungry for a smile and you smiled on me. I was hungry for a word of encouragement and you praised me. I was hungry for a word of appreciation and you thanked me.

“I was thirsty for a word of recognition and you took notice of me. I was thirsty for a Sign of friendship and you wrote me a letter. I was thirsty for a little companionship and you stopped to chat with me.

“I was a stranger and you made me feel welcome. I was a young person from a bad area and you gave me a job. I was socially inferior to you but by your acceptance you built me up.

“I was naked for the want of self-worth and you covered me with esteem. I was stripped of self-confidence and you dressed me in the cloak of confidence. I was naked from the loss of my good name through a story that was untrue, and you clothed me in the garment of truth.

“I was sick with doubt and worry, and with your cheerful attitude you lightened my burden. I was wounded by failure and disappointment, and by your supportive attitude you healed me. I was in a pit of depression, and by your patient attitude you gave me hope.

“I was in a prison of nerves, and through your attitude of calm you set me free. I was in a prison of loneliness, and through friendship you released me. I was in a prison of guilt, and through your forgiveness you broke the chains of my guilt.

“I was homeless for want of tenderness and affection, and you hugged me. I was homeless for want of sympathy and understanding, and you listened to me. I was homeless from want of care, love, and acceptance, and you opened your heart and took me in.”

There are so many kind things we could do for one another if we were a little more aware and sensitive. It is not a question of doing great things, but of doing little things with great love (as Mother Teresa says). Nor, in most cases, is it a question of giving things.

Rather it is a question of giving of ourselves, of our time, our energy, and our love. Those who love, do so without show, and without expecting any reward. We are serving Christ and helping to build his Kingdom when we love others sincerely, in simple, practical, everyday ways.

Would it not be terrible to have to appear before Christ never having loved? Today’s Gospel is so important and central that if we were to forget everything else, and remember and practice only this, we would be o.k. For a Christian there is really only one failure, one sin, and that is not to love.

‘In the evening of life we shall be examined on love.’ (St John of the Cross).

‘Hell is the suffering of one who can no longer love.’ (Dostoyevsky).

PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL

Let us pray for the coming of God’s Kingdom among us, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace. R. May your Kingdom come.

That wherever the followers of Christ are found, the hungry may be fed. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.

That all government leaders may work to ensure that the naked are clothed and the homeless sheltered. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.

That the sick may be cared for, strangers made welcome, and prisoners visited. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.

That we never forget that what we do to others we do to Christ our King. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.

For local needs.

Let us pray:

God our Father, We make all our prayers to you, through Jesus who is our Brother, our Saviour, and our King, and who lives reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

SIGN OF PEACE

Lord, you said to your disciples: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. A peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you’. May you reign as King over our hearts and lives, so that we may enjoy the peace and unity of your Kingdom where you live for ever and ever.

COMMUNION REFLECTION

On a cold wintry day

a man saw a small girl standing at a street comer.

She was shivering with the cold,

and starving for want of a decent meal.

The man got angry and said to God:

‘Why do you allow this to happen?

Why don’t you do something about it?’

And God replied:

‘I have already done something about it.

I made you’. [Pause]

‘As long as you did it to one of these,

you did it to me.’

These unforgettable words of Christ

are at the very heart of the Gospel.

Every day we get some chance

to put them into practice.