Good morning – as this is my first reflection, my name is Luke Guimond. I am a new-ish member of St. Joe’s and a member of the parish council. When I was asked which weekend in November I wanted as my début, my answer was easily the Solemnity of Christ the King. This was because the parish I grew up in was Christ the King parish, so I am wearing red (the parish’s colour) and have dawned my CTK parish pin as a result. More profoundly, the readings speak of how we are meant to act as followers of Christ.
Today’s readings are a direct call to action, and they are relevant to the work of St Joseph’s parish. They speak to issues of social justice and Catholic social thought. Moreover, they are a bookend to the readings on All Saints’ Day, namely the Beatitudes. In the first reading, Ezekiel relates to us a wonderous passage about God’s care for God’s people. God is like a shepherd who tends to his sheep. God seeks the lost, brings back the strayed, tends to the injured, and builds up the weak. God is also clear that the fat and the strong will be destroyed. The fat and the strong believe themselves too good for God and no longer need God—a homo deus moment, that is humankind becoming godlike. However, we are never too good for God. Each of us requires tending to. Remember, Pope Francis has been clear about how he views the Church: “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. … You have to heal their wounds. … Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.” (Francis, 2013)
We began this month with the Beatitudes found in Matthew—a wonderful passage. I will come back to Matthew’s version in a moment, but I want to start with Luke’s version because at the end, we find a resonance with Ezekiel. Luke’s gospel is the gospel of the poor, which is clear at the end of his beatitudes: “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated false prophets this way.” (Luke 6: 24-26) We are called to lead humble lives of service. I attended a Jesuit undergrad, and our motto—besides the general ad maioram Dei gloriam, to the greater glory of God—was “forming persons for others.” As Catholics, we believe in salvation through faith and good works. I cite the motto because we are meant to serve others; we are social beings. The psalm continues Ezekiel’s shepherd theme: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” God will provide. God will be our protector and guide us through tough times.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we find a general reprise of the end-of-days narrative found in much of Paul’s works. His message to Corinthians is similar to that to the Thessalonians about not fearing one’s resurrection and ascension. Although this is important during this month when we commemorate those who have died, this distracts from the message in Ezekiel and in the gospel: what am I doing to advance Christ’s message of love one another? An apt question as we move into the Advent season and a season of wanton consumerism.
The instructions found in today’s gospel are so rich and clear. We are told in clear, concise words that we are to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to give water to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to tend to the sick, and to visit the detained. It is quite simple, yet we all struggle to fulfil Christ’s words.
This clear giving of instructions mimics the Beatitudes in Matthew. Christ speaks unambiguously about what it means to be His disciple and how we ought to be. The sermon on the mount teaches us how to lead saintly lives and to contribute to tending to the common good. Both today’s gospel and the Beatitudes are easy passages for us to understand what exactly we ought to do.
However, we often approach scripture not sure how to unravel what is on the page. This is not the case today. It is clear: we are called to care for one another. We are not islands. We are embedded in particular circumstances. We have, therefore, certain obligations to our beloved siblings, for “no one can remain indifferent to the lot of one’s siblings who are still buried in wretchedness, and victims of insecurity, slaves of ignorance.” (Paul VI, 1967: 271) In fact, in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio (1967), he quotes Saint James who reiterates the gospel message, “If a brother or a sister be naked, if they lack their daily nourishment, and one of you says to them: ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ without giving them what is necessary for the body, what good does it do?” (Paul VI, 1967: 264). We are called to do good works and to tend to the common good. The gospel today tells us how we ought to tend to the common good. We are meant to look outward to our fellow humans. This is laid bare in Gaudium et spes (1964):
Profound and rapid changes make it particularly urgent that no one, ignoring the trend of events or drugged laziness, content oneself with a merely individualistic morality. It grows increasingly true that the obligations of justice and love are fulfilled only if each person, contributing to the common good, according to one’s own abilities and needs of others, also promotes and assists the public and private in situations of human life. (192)
As such, we need to ask ourselves what we are doing to better the human condition of our neighbours, for, as Sister Norma Pimentel writes, “Jesus is inviting us … to really be there for those who need us, those who are marginalized, those who are out there who are ignored by many in our society. Those who some think can be discarded.” (2022: 264) When we think about clothing the naked, we often frame it mentally as a gift of what is ours—do I have enough in order to be able to give something? Saint Ambrose was clear on this: “You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to them what is theirs. For what has been given in common for all, you have arrogated to yourself.
The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.” (Paul VI, 1967: 258) Remember, the early Church followed this closely, for “private property does not constitute for anyone an absolute and unconditioned right. No one is justified in keeping for one’s exclusive use what one does not need when others lack necessities.” (Paul VI, 1967: 258) During this weekend of excessive consumerism, which extends through Advent, let us remember to care for our neighbours and ask ourselves, “what am I doing to bring God’s love into the world?”
Pope Paul VI. Populorum Progressio. In Catholic Social Thought: Encyclicals and Documents from Pope Leo XIII to Pope Francis. Edited by David J O’Brien and Thomas A Shannon. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2016. 253-77.
Pimentel, Norma, MJ. “Solemnity of Christ the King: Jesus, Hidden in Plain Sight.” In Catholic Women Preach: Raisin Voices, Renewing the Church (Cycle A). Edited by Elizabeth Donnelly and Russ Petrus. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2022. 263-65.
Vatican. Gaudium et spes. In Catholic Social Thought: Encyclicals and Documents from Pope Leo XIII to Pope Francis. Edited by David J O’Brien and Thomas A Shannon. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2016. 174-250.