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Gospel Reflection – Christ the King

Exemple

Gospel Reflection – Christ the King

STANDING BEFORE THE LORD NOW

The Gospel to conclude the Church’s year appropriately evokes the great judgment instituted by the Shepherd-King at the end of time. The Christian tradition, especially in art (Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel) and music (Dies Irae), has often depicted the scene in terrifying literalness.

We may not today feel bound to such a literal understanding of imagery and motifs taken from the apocalyptic Jewish worldview of Jesus’ day. But we have to recognize that what the Gospel wishes to communicate with great seriousness is that the final outcome of one’s existence is irreversibly determined by the attitude and action one adopts in regard to fellow human beings here and now.

Nothing is said about correctness of faith, or the need to be free from, or to have obtained forgiveness for, all kinds of sin. The sole determinant is whether one has acted with care and compassion for people in various situations of need. Here the “greatest commandment of the law”—the twin love of God and of one’s neighbour (22:36-40)—and the sense of Jesus as “Emmanuel” (“God with us” [1:23]) receives its most radical extension. The one who sits upon the throne as Judge, has so identified with even “the least” of his “brothers and sisters” that effective compassion shown or not shown to them has been shown or not shown to him.

There is no need to wait for the Son of Man to come in judgment; every time one encounters a fellow human being in need one already stands before the Judge and King.

Fr Brendan Byrne SJ

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