King of My Heart – Solemnity of Christ the King 2017

Friends, it is appropriate that the Church celebrates the last liturgical Sunday of the year to honour its founder and saviour, as the King of the universe. This is the highest title one can receive in the world. Although this celebration, initiated by Pope Pius XI, is new, its meaning and understanding goes back to the beginning of the Church. Today's celebration, the solemnity of Christ, the king began as an invitation to all Christians to acknowledge Christ, our king's rule over all the powers of the earth, over all realms and peoples. It was necessary at a time when worldly ambitions drew many from God and Christ. Today, it is more important than ever to acknowledge Christ as the king and Lord of history. Most nations and people have become atheistic and agnostic and deny God's existence and place in the world, thereby making themselves their own gods.

The Prophet Ezekiel was called by God to comfort those who lived in exile in Babylon (Ezek 34: 11-12, 15-17). The difficulties were caused by unfaithfulness and disobedience to God by the kings and leaders of the people. They were "shepherds of Israel" but only cared for themselves and not the people entrusted to them. They had let themselves down, God and their people. With the image of a shepherd and his sheep, Ezekiel describes the relationship between God and his people. Now God promises through the Prophet that he will be their shepherd. He will care for them and lead them to peace and justice. Those who live in exile will return to their country where they again become God's chosen. Christ applied this to himself in John 10: 1-18. Jesus told the Pharisees that he is like a shepherd who sacrifices his life for his sheep. Ezekiel’s prophecy that came 500 BC was fully fulfilled in Christ. Through his life and resurrection, he founded the new kingdom and gathered the new sheep in his name. Christ is a king who has shown his love for us by sacrificing his life for us. Through his death he has given us life, through his wounds he has healed us. Through his resurrection he has made death a door to eternal life.

The Apostle Paul writes in today's second reading that Christ began his royal reign at his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15: 20-26, 28). He believes it will continue until he has destroyed every reign and power and authority until he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is of course death. We have every reason to be happy and praise Christ. We have the great blessing to belong to his kingdom after death. Christ lived and died for us. He died to defeat our death and give us life (Jn 10:10). He arose from the dead to show that he is Lord of life and death. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Christ wants to rule in our hearts and in our world.

Some members of the Church of Corinth denied or doubted faith in the resurrection of the dead. Current practice and culture can affect how we live our lives. At that time, Plato’s philosophy was prevailing in Greece. Probably they were influenced by Plato’s philosophy that prevailed Corinth at that time. Plato taught that all people originally were spiritual beings living in the presence of the all perfect. But because of sin, they received human nature to suffer in the earth in this body. If they proved worthy at death, they will be released from the body and return to happiness (eudaimonia). It was this teaching that made it difficult for the Greeks to accept the resurrection of the body (Acts 17:32). The Apostle Paul devotes the entire fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthian to argue and convince the converts of the resurrection of the body. It was Christ who founded the new kingdom on earth. He will rule over it until the destruction of death. Christ lived to show the way to the kingdom of heaven. We have every reason to thank and praise him. He is the way, the truth and the life. With him, we cannot be lost.

Jesus talks to his disciples in today's gospel text about his return (Matthew 25: 31-46). It is about Jesus' depiction of the ultimate judgment. He describes that it resembles a king who arrives in glory and majesty and sits on the throne of his glory to judge all people. Everyone will get what he or she deserves. All who did not love God do not come into the kingdom of God. There will be no opportunity to appeal his judgment. By serving the needy, poor and hungry Christians, we serve Christ. He who has said, whatever you have done to the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done to me. In this narration, we see that the judgement of Christ will be radically concrete, dealing with the ordinary things of life – hunger, thirst, sick, naked, homeless, prison etc. People who are poor may end up in a negative spiral that lasts for life. The poor do not only mean those who are poor in a material sense but also those who are hungry and thirsty for spiritual things. Some are spiritually ill, caught in their desire for worldly glory, money, status, and have no time for God.

Serving these people is also serving Christ. The Lord expects us to cooperate with Him to give bring all people to his kingdom. Today we have the opportunity to renew our loyalty to Christ our King and Saviour. By exercising spiritual and corporal works of mercy, we can accomplish what we are called to. Although we have failed in the past, we can try again, because the Lord is with us. Deeds of mercy together with the grace of God work miracles. When Christ becomes king in the heart of a human being, heaven has come down to earth. This means that Jesus takes the first place in his or her life. Through loving the needy, a human being shows that Christ is truly the King of his life and Heart.

It is important to note that the sins mentioned by Jesus are not deeds without neglect. If it becomes so for negligence- omission, then how about those of commission? Can you be excused when fellow human beings are in need? A true friend is one who enters the experience with you especially at the moments of need, like Jonathan living the comfort of the palace and going to visit David in the woods. He comforts, encourages and strengthens him and was happy for David’s elevation. A true friend is never one who never shows up and tells you from afar that he or she is praying for you. Jesus says that it is enough to help a human being in need. On the last day, Jesus judges all people, whether they are Christians or not. Jesus does not make unreasonable demands! He has a common standard for all people, namely love. It is the person's deepest nature and makes sense of all that Jesus has said and done. As I have loved you, you too will love each other (John 13:34). Love is the only criterion of the ultimate judgment. The Apostle Paul refers to this in his praise to love (1 Corinthians 13: 2).

We will always have the poor, hungry, naked with you.  These prophetic words of the Lord underscore the nature of poverty. It is so we will never miss the opportunity to show love and gratitude to God. If these are not found in our immediate environment, there are about 767 million people living in extreme poverty worldwide. The UN's definition of extreme poverty means fighting to survive at less than $ 1.9 a day, equivalent to about 16 Swedish kronor. Despite successes in poverty reduction, Africa is the continent with the largest proportion of extremely poor. At the same time, nonetheless, if we instead count the number of people living in extreme poverty, there are actually more poor people in India than in all of Africa. It is tragic that politicians in most developing countries steal the resources available in their countries for its development. Many of them have a lot of money belonging to their countries in private accounts in rich countries. These are resources that could help to reduce or eradicate extreme poverty in their countries. Keep in mind that many of these politicians call themselves Christians. They are the goats placed at the left by the Lord because they neglected to stand up for the least. They will suffer for their wickedness at the end just like Antiochus Epiphanes when he pillaged the temple in Jerusalem, erecting the abomination of desolation.

We do not have to search for a long to find the poor. As Christians, it is important that we cooperate with people and organizations of goodwill to eradicate extreme poverty in the world. The UN and other global organizations aim to eradicate extreme poverty. Objective 1 of the Global Development Goals (SDGs) strives for a without extreme poverty in 2030. It may seem ambitious, but it is possible to eradicate extreme poverty. There are thousands of charities such as SpringAid International Development (SAID), ActionAid, Oxfarm, Red Cross, Save the Children, The Hunger Project, Forum Syd, We Effect, etc. who work for the poor and marginalized. You can support these organizations in their work. Personally, I am convinced that the world has sufficient resources to succeed in eradicating extreme poverty if it makes sincere use of the available resources and seeks the true wealth found only in the Christ, the king of the universe. Chikezie Onuoha MSP.

Webbdesign: Peter Tynkkynen