FIRST READING (As for you, my flock, I will judge between one sheep and another.)
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (34:11-12, 15-17)
Thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord God. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly.
As for you, my sheep, says the Lord God, I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.—The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6)
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. (Ps 23:1)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose. (R)
Beside restful waters he leads me, he refreshes my soul. He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake. (R)
You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (R)
Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. (R)
SECOND READING (Christ will hand over the kingdom to his God and Father so that God may be all in all.)
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (15:20-26, 28)
Brothers and sisters: Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.—The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Mk 11:9, 10)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! (R)
GOSPEL (The Son of Man will sit upon his glorious throne and he will separate them one from another.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (25:31-46)
Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘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.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”—The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“Insofar as you do this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”
On this day of 22 November 1927, a Jesuit priest in Mexico, Father Miguel Pro, and two of his brothers were arrested and accused of the attempted assassination of the former president of their country. The next day, as Pro walked from his cell to the courtyard and the firing squad, he blessed the soldiers, knelt, and briefly prayed quietly. Declining a blindfold, he faced his executioners with a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other and held his arms out in imitation of the crucified Christ and shouted out, “May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, you know that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!” Before the firing squad were ordered to shoot, Pro raised his arms in imitation of Christ on the cross and shouted the defiant cry of the Cristeros (the people who protested the banning of their Church and faith in Mexico), “Viva Cristo Rey!” – “Long live Christ the King!” Fr. Pro was 32 years of age and had been a priest for only two years. He was condemned to death for ministering to people during a time when the government of Mexico banned the Catholic Church.
Our feast and Gospel today herald Jesus as king, but a ruler like Blessed Miguel Pro and so many others, identified with the poor, the persecuted, the alienated – like Christ Himself, who was mocked at his own death with the title, King of the Jews.
Two important themes resonate through our readings today: the shepherding care of God: “As a shepherd tends his flock, when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so I will tend my sheep.” (Ezek and Ps 23), and the vision of the end of time, when Jesus as King and Son of Man will separate the evildoers from good people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
This grand scene for the last judgment in St. Matthew’s Gospel has become a form of “Gospel within the Gospel” for people dedicated to the corporal works of mercy, to charity and justice for the multitudes in our world today who suffer from hunger, thirst, horrible illness, and imprisonment. Most surprising in this parable is that Jesus identifies himself with such people, and was unknown even to those who were ministering to them. “When did we see you?”
In the context of the entire Gospel of Matthew, this broad scene concludes a long discourse on discipleship in preparation for the absence of the Lord after the resurrection and the commissioning of the apostles and disciples to GO to the ends of the earth, always with the consciousness that he would be with them until the end of the ages. Thus, the setting of this Gospel is this moment at the end of ages, when we too will learn and understand that Jesus was always with us, because he is always among the least of His brothers and sisters.
This parable is apocalyptic in nature. In apocalyptic thought, scenes of judgment disclose the transcendent values that should have been operative throughout our lives. Apocalyptic is a view of history and human life from God’s perspective. The parable here reveals that justice is constituted by acts of loving kindness and mercy to those in need; the world will be made “right and just” when the way the least are treated becomes the NORM of action. What is done positively FOR them is not to be limited TO them – but to be our way of life each day.
This view calls the Church – calls each of us – to be authentic witnesses to the Gospel. The Church cannot preach acts of loving kindness to the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and the imprisoned unless it too is a Church in mission and bears these same sufferings.
The values that we as a church community propose TO the nations must be the same that we as a Church ourselves witness IN THE MIDST of the nations. This mission, these works of mercy, must be assimilated into the lives of each of us.
Today, the Cristo Rey of Blessed Miguel Pro truly reigns among those whose authentic witness reminds us of the demands of justice in the world. These embrace not only the multitude of martyrs for justice, who like St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Edith Stein, St. Peter To Rot, and Blessed Father Pro, stretched out their arms to selfless death. They include a cloud of witnesses who work in homeless shelters and in classrooms, in prison cells and retreat houses, in advocating for the poor, and in confronting the prosperous. They show us what justice means and how Christ reigns in their lives as they guide us “in right paths for his name’s sake.” (Ps. 23:3).
“Whatever you do to the least of these, you are doing to Me.” These are words that are both comforting and disturbing. They teach us that the proof of how much we love the Lord, of how much He is alive in us, is found not in prayers and spiritual moments, but in how we treat those around us. Is it so hard to see Jesus in those around us? Maybe so. But if we cannot see Christ in others, – at least WE can be Christ TO others. Are we Christ to those around us? Are we Christ to anyone? The answer to that question tells the truth about us, about the depth of our faith and about our eternal destiny. ARE WE CHRIST TO OTHERS? ARE WE CHRIST TO ANYONE? Think of the example of Bl. Miguel Pro – can I hold the cross in one hand and the rosary in the other and with conviction proclaim CHRIST IS KING! Does my life preach that truth?
Celebrant: Our Shepherd King reveals the mystery of his kingdom through people who extend his loving care to the poor and hungry. At the close of this Church Year, let us pray for the compassion of Christ our King.
READER: For the Church, the living Body of Christ, that we will welcome the lost, the stray, the weak, and the vulnerable, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For nations afflicted by endemic poverty, that development may bring them peace and justice, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For the most neglected and rejected people, that practical charity will draw them into the kingdom of mercy, compassion and love, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For our community, that we may spread the reign of Jesus Christ in acts of kindness and care, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For the Souls of the Faithful departed in this month of November, that Christ, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, may bring all who belong to Him rejoicing into His Father’s Kingdom, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Father, knowing your boundless love for all people, we confidently bring our intentions before you, in the name of Christ, the universal King, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. (all) AMEN.