“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.” The King speaks these words to the sheep in the Parable of the Goats and Sheep. The sheep were the ones who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, cared for the sick and visited the imprisoned.
One of the messages carried by the parable is that these actions are to be imitated and repeated. It is good to do these things. Jesus expects us to have this kind of love.
Another theme in the parable is that of judgment. The King is the one who judges. Notice the sheep and goats do not separate themselves. The king is the one who separates. He is the one who acts. The judgment is based on whether or not the person cared for the needy.
Still another theme or message is that the King identifies himself with the poor, the stranger (foreigner, alien or immigrant), the sick and imprisoned. For when he first speaks to the sheep 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.’”
This is the King we celebrate today on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
The Kingdom of God has been established through Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. His kingdom will never cease. The King’s reign is permanent and will last forever. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Revelation 11:15; 17:14). Christ’s kingship over life has been established through his resurrection. He is the Lord of life.
St. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, reminds them and us that the victory over sin and death has been achieved through Christ and “since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man” (1 Corinthians 15:21).
Paul further points to the “end” when the King will return, raise all the faithful from the dead, destroy death itself and present the kingdom to his Father.
One of the biblical images associated with kingship is that of shepherd. In the Old Testament God is identified as both king and shepherd. We see examples of this in the first reading (from Ezekiel) and the response (Psalm 23) for Sunday’s liturgy. The shepherd is the one who “looks after” and “tends” the flock.
If we look at those readings asking ourselves the question, what does the shepherd do? or what does it mean to “look after” or “tend” the flock?, these answers will present themselves. The shepherd “rescues” the sheep from every place they are scattered, “pastures” the sheep, seeks out the lost, binds up the injured, heals the sick, gives “repose” to the sheep, leads, refreshes and guides his sheep, spreads a table for his sheep, anoints and judges.
The King cares greatly for his sheep. He loves them so much so that he identifies himself with them especially in their need.
Jesus is the King who knows his sheep and their needs. He establishes his kingdom and draws his sheep together as a shepherd of his flock. As citizens of his kingdom, he is our King and to him belongs homage.
Jesus reminds us that the homage we do him includes caring for those most needy among us. We do him homage when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, cloth the naked, welcome the stranger, care for the sick and visit the imprisoned, for he says: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.”