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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

258: Nov 29 2020: Whatever you did for one of the least, you did it for me.

Day 258: Nov 29th 2020

On the last Sunday before Advent, the Church celebrates a feast called the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. (Sandy McKeith pointed out to me that the feast was celebrated last week - November 22nd. True that. I'm a week off - as today is the first Sunday in Advent... so light that candle everyone!)

So to get back to the Feast of Christ The King of the Universe...

I’ve never understood this feast. It began a century ago when the hierarchy felt threatened by a growing population of secular professionals and others who confronted the Church. They thought the ideas of “progress” and modernity were fraught with error and would turn people from the Church.

I can imagine Pope Pius XI and his retinue of Bishops (The “princes” of the Church) getting together and saying “We’ll put a stop to this nonsense and make Jesus into a King to rule over all, forever with these words "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.” Whew.

For me the words Jesus and Empire simply don’t fit together.

My concept of Jesus is that of a radical so in love with the practice of universal kinship that he gladly washed the feet of his followers. A person who recognized the humanity and failings Jesus of fishermen and tax collectors and who openly and gladly welcomed women into his circle. Jesus who gave hope to the poor and those oppressed by a system that guaranteed their poverty. Jesus who never wore a stole of priesthood and who told stories that broke the caste and race models of the day as with the story of the good Samaritan. Jesus who forgave those putting him to a state-sanctioned death.

Shouldn’t the feast be renamed to something like The feast of Jesus who challenges us, or The Feast of Jesus who breaks our hearts open to see the poor and lift them up, The Feast of Jesus the Revolutionary lover of all people? The feast of Jesus who said Love Your Enemies?

Thank goodness for Pope Francis who goes to the heart of the Good News: “Poverty is precisely at the heart of the Gospel. If we were to remove poverty from the Gospel, people would understand nothing about Jesus’ message.”

Francis, like Jesus, says we need a theology of economic justice, a theology that shows Jesus’ ministry as a revolutionary movement against the evils of Empire and poverty.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him; when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

How does this kindom grow? Through humble acts of service to serve the poor, by educating the young through our actions, by welcoming the migrant and those seeking to escape the dangers of their home countries, by visiting the prisoner, healing the sick, burying the dead, and by loving others.

This passage from Sister Bénédicte Rollin explains it very well:

The Solemnity of Christ the King draws our attention to a surprising contrast.

On the one hand, we contemplate the grandiose arrival of a glorious King with his imposing escort of angels. But, on the other hand, this same King turns our gaze to a grayish procession of human beings without beauty, strength or honor – the miserable, the sick and prisoners.

Crowds of those who "have no charm or beauty to attract us, no beauty to win our hearts… form whom, as it were, we avert our gaze" (Is 53, 2-3).

They are those we forget or even avoid looking at.

And now the coming of Jesus obliges everyone to look at each Person in truth, which is revealed in destitution. This person is the very image of God.

"In so far as you did this to one of the least… you did it to me."

Then we understand that what counts in the end is not to have been virtuous or "deserving", it is to have known how to look at the other, especially the "least", to have respected the other, to have loved and served them. We understand that everything that is not love is nothing.

God is love, and therefore whoever refuses to love, puts themselves outside of God -- outside of the Light.

Our daily decisions to love or refuse to love -- though they may seem insignificant -- take on their full meaning and truth in the face-to-face encounter with Christ.

This face-to-face encounter is the Parousia (presence or arrival of the Divine) for each of us.

But we are already living this encounter, even now, because Christ is with us "always; yes, even to the end of time" (Mt 28, 20).

Bénédicte Rollin is a member of the Assumption Sisters in Vilnius (Lithuania)


Last Night As I Was Sleeping

Last night as I was sleeping,

I dreamt—marvelous error!—

that a spring was breaking

out in my heart.

I said: Along which secret aqueduct,

Oh water, are you coming to me,

water of a new life

that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,

I dreamt—marvelous error!—

that I had a beehive

here inside my heart.

And the golden bees

were making white combs

and sweet honey

from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,

I dreamt—marvelous error!—

that a fiery sun was giving

light inside my heart.

It was fiery because I felt

warmth as from a hearth,

and sun because it gave light

and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,

I dreamt—marvelous error!—

that it was God I had

here inside my heart.

- Antonio Machado


Dawes - A Little Bit of Everything

Tracy Chapman - Fast car

Simon & Garfunkel - The Boxer

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