Mons. Francesco Follo
(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 11.25.2023).- Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, November 26, 2023
Christ, King on the Cross.
This Sunday, the last of the liturgical year, celebrates Jesus the King of the universe. Christ is the King, he holds the world from the Cross and asks us to participate in his royalty by kneeling before his throne of Love, the Cross, and before our brothers and sisters in the same way He, the King, has kneeled to wash the feet of his Apostles.
During the liturgical year, the Church makes us follow the path of faith and charity that embraces the story of redemption. This liturgical journey begins with Advent, the time of waiting for God’s coming, that is fulfilled at Christmas when we receive the great and happy news that God really did became one of us. Then, during Lent, comes the time for conversion that prepares us for Easter and, after fifty days, with Pentecost, the beginning of the Church’s journey. In this ‘pilgrimage’, God accompanies us with His Love and His Grace, as long as we decide to walk with Him.
On the Sunday that concludes the liturgical year celebrating Christ the King, we reflect on the meaning of this Solemnity meditating on the scene of the “universal judgment” (Mt 25: 31-46). It is precisely this evangelical page that reveals the upsetting meaning of the kingship of Christ who asks us: did we really choose to follow this King who was crucified for and by love?
He is a King who asks us to do good to others and who does not ask anything for himself. In fact, he gave everything to us, dying on the cross and sacrificing for us. A special king, far from the royalty and kingdoms of this Earth which have the aims of subjugating people and the world to their ideas and supremacy.
He is a king whose kingdom is built every day by the work of those who believe in Christ and in the values proclaimed by Him.
We are reminded of this by the Preface of the Solemnity of Christ the King ”God, you have with the oil of exultation consecrated your only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, as eternal Priest and King of the universe. He, sacrificing himself on the altar of the Cross as immaculate victim of peace, has operated the mystery of human redemption. Subjugating all creatures to his power, he offered to your infinite majesty the eternal and universal kingdom: the kingdom of truth and life, the kingdom of holiness and grace, the kingdom of justice, love and peace. ”
Therefore, the kingdom of God is not a matter of honor and appearance but of “justice, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rm 14, 17).
To better understand this, we must start from the throne of Christ which is the Cross. On the Cross on Calvary, Christ manifests his singular royalty. On Calvary two opposing attitudes are confronted. Some people at the foot of the cross, and even one of the two robbers on the cross, contemptuously talk to the Crucified saying “If you are the Christ, the King Messiah, save yourself coming down from the cross”. Jesus, on the other hand, reveals his kingdom by remaining on the cross as the sacrificed Lamb. Unexpectedly, the other thief stands by Him implicitly confessing the royalty of the innocent, and begging “Remember me, when you enter into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42). Saint Ambrose of Milan commented “He begged the Lord to remember him when He came to his kingdom, but the Lord said to him: Truly, truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. Life is to be with Christ, because where there is Christ there is the Kingdom “(Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke, 10,121).
Let us too turn with humility to Christ and He will welcome us into His Kingdom of eternal life.
Prayer and charity.
The Kingdom where Christ welcomes us and that the Redeemer gives to us is not a place or something but Himself. He gives us his heart, his words, and his feelings. In response, he does not want something we have but everything we are. It does not matter if we present this offer like the poor widow who puts everything she has, few coins, in the treasury, or like Zacchaeus who offered half of his goods. The important thing is to imitate the Virgin Mary who gladly offered herself and became on earth the paradise of the Son of Heaven. The important thing is to live the gift of self to God with joy.
To educate ourselves to this total offer, we must live charity by making charity, giving to the last ones. Giving to the poor, we give to God and He gratefully welcomes us with them to whom He says “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.’ “(Mt 25: 31-46).
In this regard Saint Augustine comments: “Nobody should be afraid of spending money on the poor. Nobody should imagine that the one who receives it is the one whose outstretched hand he sees. The one who receives it is the one who ordered you to give it. And this isn’t just my own idea, I’m not saying it as a piece of merely human guesswork; listen to him, as he both gives you a warning and writes you out a guarantee. I was hungry, he says, and you gave me to eat. And when, after he has mentioned several other forms of kindness, they answer,” When did we see you hungry?” he in turn replies, “When you did it to one of the least of mine, you did it to me” (Mt 25:35-40). It’s a poor man begging, but a rich man receiving; you give the one something to consume; the other receives something to pay back. And he isn’t just going to give back what he receives; he is determined to borrow at a usurious rate of interest, he promises more than you have given. So, now is your chance to give your avarice free play, to think of yourself as a moneylender. Of course, if you really were one, you would be severely reprimanded by the Church, you would be put clearly in the wrong by the word of God, you would be detested by all your brothers and sisters as a cruel moneylender, eager to squeeze out profit from the tears of others. Well, be a moneylender, no one is stopping you. What you want to do is to give to a poor person, who will cry and lament when the time comes for paying back; give to someone who is thoroughly credit-worthy, who even begs you to take the interest he promises. “(Sermon86: 3).
Of this charity towards the neighbor the consecrated virgins are a very important example. In fact, what is given to God it is not detract from men because with virginity they consecrate to God their love, their heart, their thoughts. The consecrated person does not forget and neglects this world and the men and women who in it struggle and suffer. The Christian God is Love that does not receive but gives, or better, He is a God who receives not to retain for himself but to give it back more plentiful. Therefore, what is given to God, is a love flowing upon men and women enriched by God’s own love. It is not an impoverished love, but a love made stronger and therefore more committed and fruitful. That is why the great majority of charitable works toward the poor have been made by virgins, the last being Saint Teresa of Calcutta who became a missionary of charity serving the poorest of the poor because she totally donated herself to God.