Today is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in the aftermath of World War I and amidst the rise of the deceptions of fascism, national socialism (Nazism) and communism. The reason the Pope promulgated the Solemnity of Christ the King was to emphasize the belief in the one kingship of Jesus Christ above and beyond any human or political power. As we pray in the Creed every Sunday, “His Kingdom shall have no end.” The omnipotence of God outdoes every other conceivable type of human authority, and all things will be subjected to Him at the end of time. 

This belief fills Christians with great confidence. It is also an invitation to reflect, as we have in the readings for today, about our role in God’s kingdom. The gospel for today from Matthew 25:31-46 gives a vivid description of the final judgment and how each person will be known as a co-worker in God’s kingdom or not. The first reading contextualizes Jesus’ description of the end of human history and helps us understand His words. 

God, speaking through the prophet Ezekiel, declares three things (Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17). First, He says that He will tend His flock. Tending the flock means bringing the scattered sheep together so that they are safe. Second, God promises that he will pasture his sheep. Pasturing goes beyond just bringing the flock together. The care for each individual is articulated. The lost will be found; the straying will be brought back. The injured and the sick will be bound up and healed. Each and every one will receive what it needs, individually cared for by the Shepherd. Third, God declares that He will judge the sheep. In the same way that each sheep receives individual care, so also each one will receive a particular judgment. The shepherd who will do all this is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. 

This context, therefore, of not just particular judgment but personal, individualized care, is how we are meant to read and interpret both the second reading from Saint Paul (1 Cor 15:20-26, 28) and the day’s gospel reading from Matthew. 

The Corinthians were struggling with the belief in the resurrection. They did not understand or were beginning to doubt the reality of the resurrection of the body, one of the truths of the Catholic faith. Paul strongly reasserts to the Corinthian community that we will all, in fact, be brought back to life from the dead. We will rise again and we will be judged. Paul then describes those final moments of human history, a teaching that is also summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1060): “At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. Then the just will reign with Christ forever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe itself will be transformed. God will then be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28), in eternal life.” 

These truths are not meant to scare us, but to prepare us. We know that our God is with us, as He promised us (Mt 28:20). Jesus is tending His flock always, pasturing us, caring for us individually at every moment. We also know the criteria upon which we will be judged: Did you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, nurse the sick, and visit the imprisoned? These acts of kindness and generosity, done out of love for Jesus, transform us into His friends and disciples here on earth. Together with the Spiritual Works of Mercy, they prepare us to be co-heirs with Him forever in heaven, our ultimate home. As Jesus Himself said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)