This week’s gospel presents us with the classic text from Matthew’s Gospel of the end times. We read of the separation of the sheep and the goats. The king says to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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.” (Matthew 25:34-36)
This text has inspired generations of Christian believers and is one of the texts that is distinctive to Christianity in that it identifies Christ with every human being that we meet. It is a reminder to us that Christians do not just love one another or those that are easy to love, or those who repay our love. The Christian is called to an empathy with the human condition and every human being across the globe. particularly with the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the sick and the imprisoned.
Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti is full of reminders that the human family is just that, a family made up of human beings, each with a dignity and a sacred nature that cannot be taken from them.
For Christians, the words of Jesus have an even deeper meaning. They compel us to recognise Christ himself in each of our abandoned or excluded brothers and sisters (cf. Matthew 25:40.45). Faith has untold power to inspire and sustain our respect for others, for believers come to know that God loves every man and woman with infinite love and “thereby confers infinite dignity” upon all humanity. We likewise believe that Christ shed his blood for each of us and that no one is beyond the scope of his universal love. If we go to the ultimate source of that love which is the very life of the triune God, we encounter in the community of the three divine Persons the origin and perfect model of all life in society. (Fratelli Tutti 85)
So on the feast of Christ the King, which we celebrate this weekend, we are reminded that God’s Kingdom or God’s culture is one that sets all human beings side by side. All loved, all honoured, all precious. It is not the hierarchical kingdom that we so automatically associate with kingdoms and kings.