‘[Jesus said] whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’
Brothers and sisters, I saw in a local supermarket that the count down clock to Christmas in on, and no doubt you’re getting busy with the Christmas lists, the Christmas shopping, and the Christmas stressing! However, before we go charging off to the 25th December, the Church gives us Advent, which is now just a week away. Advent is the time when in preparation for remembering Jesus’ first coming—at Christmas—we also make preparations for His second coming at the end of time. Quite rightly before we can get ready for Jesus’ return we must ask what kind of king are we preparing for? What is He like? What does He like? To that end, the Church gives us—on the last Sunday before Advent—the Feast of Christ the King to remind us of who it is that we’re preparing for, and what it is that He likes.
The Gospel picked for this Sunday—the one we just had read—focuses in on these most important of questions and entirely appropriately for the Sunday before Advent the focus is on the Second Coming of Christ. ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him’ (Matt. 25:31-32). This is the moment we’re waiting for, and the moment should be preparing for, and which Advent will help us to focus upon; the moment Jesus finally returns. Verses 32-33: ’All the nations will be gathered before him, and [Jesus] will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.’ Jesus is going to separate people out and there are going to be winners and losers. One side is going to be shown to be in the right, and the other side is going to be shown to be wrong. Which side are we going to be on? And how can we prepare? Well Jesus doesn’t leave us guessing, He doesn’t leave us in the dark, Jesus the King lays out for us exactly what we need to be like in order to qualify for His kingdom. Jesus tells us in this Gospel how to be on the right side of the king, how to be on the right side of history; and the answer? Be like the King.
‘the King will say 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 ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me”.’ - Matthew 25:34-36
It seems as if Jesus is saying: ‘I arrived in advance, I came first in disguise, and how you treated me then, will determine which side you end up on now’. Not surprisingly—given Jesus was disguised as the needy—the people who are included in His kingdom ask the obvious questions: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you? Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Armed with our two questions: What is the King like and what does He like, let’s consider that astounding answer. First, what is the King like? The amazing answer is, that this king identifies with, and comes to be with, the least. Jesus doesn’t hover in heaven leaving His struggling brothers and sisters to fend for themselves. No, Jesus comes to be with them, to support them, to guide them, and to help them, to such an extent that—says Jesus—if you serve them, you’re serving me! Jesus is so close to His hungry brothers and sisters, that by feeding them you’re feeding Jesus. Jesus so identifies with His homeless siblings that by housing them, you’re housing Him. Jesus is walking so closely with lonely Christians that befriend them, and you’re befriending Him. What is the king like? He is so merciful that He doesn’t stay in His castle in the clouds, but comes down to live with those who a struggling, those who are imprisoned, those who are lonely, and those who are starving. What is the King like? He loves all those in need. This king of Love, this king of Mercy, this king of the lonely and the outcast, is the king we’re meant to preparing for, the king who will return to judge the world. Not a king who shuns the weak but one who lifts them up. Not a king who criticises those you have made mistakes but one who helps them to make a fresh start. This is the king who is returning, the king who will judge the world, and who will put all things right.
Now we know what He is like, we can ask our second question what does He like? Or perhaps what does He want us to be like? Jesus wants su to be like Him! Well we’ve already worked that out; Jesus is merciful and loving, so we must be merciful and loving, if we are to be on the right side of history, the right side of Jesus, and the right side of the final judgement. 'the King will say 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’. As Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel: ‘Be merciful as I am merciful’. To call ourselves Christians, to attend Church, to go through the motions but to not actually work to become more like Jesus, will leave us unready for Jesus’ return. ‘to those on his left, [Jesus said] “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. [Why] For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink’. It seems on first reading harsh, but we can not say we have not be warned. Those who are merciful shall receive mercy, those who are loving shall receive love from Jesus in return and Jesus tells us in advance, He tells us today in this reading so that we can get ourselves ready, by acting, by becoming, by loving, like Him. Yes, Jesus will come at the end of time to judge everyone, but He comes to us each day; He comes to us now in many disguises, and asks us to welcome Him. As Jesus looks down from His throne on the Final Day it will be crystal clear to Him which ones have a real faith in Him because they will look like, they will act like their king; they are merciful, as He is merciful; they love as He loves.
As we celebrate today the Feast of Christ the King let us remind ourselves of what our King is like, and then let us go and do likewise. Trusting Jesus, having faith in Him to such an extent that we start acting like Him is the only surefire way to ensure that when He returns He will welcome us into His kingdom. Let us then use this coming Advent to make ourselves ready, by feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, caring for the sick, and visiting the lonely and those in prison. Then we can look forward with joy to when Jesus finally comes home. Amen. (from Fr Mike).