Liturgical New Year’s Eve Resolutions And Who’s Really In Charge

Reflection on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King:

22 November 2020

Matthew 25: 31-46

Not gonna lie — feeling pretty lucky to be Catholic — as we celebrate the new year beginning with Advent — which means *liturgically* we get to get out of 2020 over a month before everyone else.

I’ll take it.

***************************************************************

The sheep and the goats.

This is always a hard gut-check for me.

Which is why this gospel reading – a favorite of Pope Francis’ – comes at the end of the liturgical year: The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

A bulky title for a feast, but necessary for sure this year I think.

2020 has definitely been a year when I have had to be reminded on many occasions to take a step back, breathe, and remind myself or allow myself the humility to be reminded by others about Who Is Really In Charge.

And that’s Jesus.

And not in a cutesy, teddy bears and rainbows, childish way.

In a bold, counter-cultural, obstinate, childLIKE way.

And today he tells it like it is.

I will be judged by how I have treated the poor.

Period.

Now – can we argue about who is “the poor?” Sure. Can we debate who is the poorest? The most oppressed? The most marginalized? The most misunderstood, undervalued, under-resourced? What about the “poor in spirit?” Sure – we can talk about that all day long.

But I think Jesus was talking about the Actual. Material. Poor.

And if I’m right – and if the outcome at the final judgement is about how I have treated the poor – then I’m going to need sunscreen and ice chips where I’m headed.

I desire to be a sheep. Not a goat.

If I consider the last few weeks’ worth of gospels and am truthful about where I really am regarding the stewardship of my life – it’s more than obvious Jesus is calling me to greater and more intimate love for the poor. The actual poor. Because the poor bring me to everything else about myself. And everything about Jesus. And Jesus gets me to God.

People experiencing hunger, homelessness, or other types of poverty challenge me to look at them – with radical mercy and love – the way God looks at me.

People experiencing hunger, homelessness, or other types of poverty challenge me to see the person of Jesus in their need, and realize my own need for radical mercy.

People experiencing hunger, homelessness, or other types of poverty challenge me to act – directly – not just writing a check or handing off change or gathering canned food that I no longer need or want and dropping it off somewhere (although we definitely need people to do those things…well…not the unwanted or expired canned food – come on people…) – but truly encountering the person of Jesus in those who experience material poverty. Doing the work to research what my own parish (or another agency) is doing or not doing – praise God my parish is in direct service — and then not only supporting them – but also intentionally finding time in my schedule for direct service – meaning encounter – in person – and the work of relationship.

People experiencing hunger, homelessness, or other types of poverty challenge me to deeper relationship with those I do not know or understand. To ask more questions than talk – to get to know a person’s story. We each have a story.

The Best of Who I Am is my dignity as a beloved child of God. And guess what – if that’s true of me — that’s true of everyone. An exchange of persons, of dignity, of story, of relationship – is what brings even more dignity to a person – and relationship is what brings us to Jesus. And Jesus brings us to God.

People experiencing hunger, homelessness, or other types of poverty challenge me to be better all around with relationships. If I can be in an authentic, intimate, and intentional relationship with a person – it’s much harder to judge him/her. And if I am not busy judging someone – I am more likely to see that person as God sees them – just as God sees Jesus – as a Beloved Child Who Saves The World. And if that’s how God sees Jesus – and I am an adopted child of God – then that’s…*shudder*…how God looks at me. And at everyone. And that radically changes my lens through which I encounter the whole world and every person in it.

It gives me more than just an opportunity to proclaim the kerygma – the Great Story of Jesus – to another by the depth of my relationship grown with someone over time – more likely it gives another person a chance to call ME to the kerygma – and to further surrender myself to the person of Jesus – as I encounter Him in the poorest of the poor. The sickest. The most lonely. The most marginalized.

So this year, the end of the liturgical year, as I consider how I’m going to #AnticipateAdvent and how I might begin this new liturgical year with solid resolutions that speak mercy, justice, sacrifice, and doing my part to change the culture of the world in my little corner – I’m feeling very called to intentionally take a very hard and close look at and act on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Which I LOVE. But which are HARD.

I desire to be a sheep. Not a goat.

More on this in another blog entry. But here are those Works of Mercy – give it some thought and prayer:

I’ll leave you with some words from some very wise and very counter-cultural Catholic Peeps:

The late Cardinal Francis George famously gave an address to the major contributors to the Archdiocese of Chicago and told them, “…the poor need you to draw them out of poverty, and you need the poor to keep you out of Hell.”

BOOM.

Servant of God Dorothy Day said “the gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.”

YIKES.

She also said “to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the harborless without also trying to change the social order so that people can feed, clothe, and shelter themselves is just to apply palliatives. It is to show a lack of faith in one’s fellows, their responsibilities as children of God, heirs of heaven.”

More YIKES.

And she also said, “Everything a baptized person does every day should be directly or indirectly related to the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.”

Super YIKES.

I will be judged by how I have treated the poor.

So folks, I’m all in. I have to be – if Jesus is King of the Universe – and He is – then we’re all in.

I’d like to spend eternity in the non-sunscreen-and-ice-chips-section, please.

I desire to be a sheep. Not a goat.

One thought on “Liturgical New Year’s Eve Resolutions And Who’s Really In Charge

  1. Very good posting. Nice mix of profound spiritual ideas with wit and practicality. You can stop making ice chips; you are a sheep

    As an aside, I think the metaphor of Christ as King, though abundantly present in scripture and the traditional prayers of the Church, has lost meaning to the modern world. The concept of king is alien to our experience and to many has a somewhat negative connotation. There are many suitable alternatives, like master, ruler, or,my favorite, Cristo Pantocrator (title of iconic mosaic on the ceiling of Haga Sophia.)

    Greg

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