November 22, 2020: Christ the King - Pastor’s Corner
The end. As our calendars come to their last pages, nature itself reminds that we are nearing the end of the cycle of life. Brisk days are darkening, colored leaves are shedding; winter is coming. Even our recent liturgies reflect this sense of culminating finality. We continue to read from Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel. We’ve been recalling Jesus’ parables of the “last things.” Two weeks ago, we heard the parable of the prepared and unprepared virgins and the message was clear, “Stay awake, be prepared, you know not the hour” when Christ the Bridegroom will arrive. Last week we heard the parable of the talents. Christ reminds us that we are accountable as stewards of his blessings: “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” This week on the feast of Christ the King, we are challenged by the parable of the sheep and goats, as the Good Shepherd judges his flock: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did [or did not do] for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Each of these parables of Parousia (2nd Coming of Christ in glory) comforts and challenges us to contemplate the ultimate realities of our lives.
Now in the midst of our daily activity and routine, reflecting on ultimate realities is not something we often entertain. Life’s busyness fosters spiritual amnesia. We frequently lose focus of our final destiny and its surrounding realities. Traditionally, the Church refers to these realities as the “Four Last Things”: death, judgment, heaven and hell. Every Fall, our year-end liturgies confront us with the facts: we will die, we will be judged, and, in the end, we will live forever with God in heaven or apart from him in hell. No matter our station or vocation in life, these are the facts. And yet, the Church does not present the four last things to arouse anxiety, distress and fear. On the contrary, we reflect on death and judgment in light of Christ’s saving death and resurrection. Just as in Adam, we all die, so too, in Christ we will be raised. For those who believe, meditating on death and judgment is not a morbid exercise, but rather, a spiritual practice meant to awaken the virtue of hope. For love is stronger than death and, so for the baptized, death is not the final word. In death, our life is changed not ended. Certainly, Christ warns us that we will be accountable for all the time, talent and treasure we’ve been given. And it’s a sobering thought. In the piercing rays of the Creator of Light, there will be little room for rationalizations and excuses. And yet we believe that, even in judgment, God’s mercy conquers all sin and shame, if we are open to receive the warmth of his love. For the fire of God’s mercy heals even our deepest wounds. We approach the final realities of death and judgment with the hope that our earthly end will be beginning of everlasting joy.
~ Fr. Michael