Sunday, November 26, 2023

Starting With The One in The Mirror

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ,

King of the Universe

Readings: Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 15-17; Psalm 22 (23): 1-3a, 5-6; 1 Corinthians 15: 20-26, 28; Matthew 25: 31-46

Picture: By Edgar Pereira on Unsplash

My dear friends, do the words Man in the Mirror ring a bell for you? Those of us of a certain age may recognise them as the title of an old song sung by the late Michael Jackson. The song offers a simple recipe for changing the world by first changing oneself: I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways…. If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change… Sounds simple, but far from easy to follow. Is it even true? And, if it is true, how are we to change ourselves? I believe these are among the questions our scriptures help us ponder on this final Sunday of our liturgical year.

To start, the second reading tells us that, at the end of time, the Crucified and Risen Christ will come and change the whole of creation in a full and final way. By first subjecting everything to himself as King, destroying all his enemies, including death itself, and then handing over his kingdom to his heavenly Father, so that God may be all in all. The other readings describe a similar process of universal change by using the image of a shepherd. When Christ comes in his glory, he will act like a shepherd in at least two ways.

First, like a shepherd calling and tending his sheep, Christ the King will gather to himself all who belong to him. Taking special care of those who are confused and lost, oppressed and neglected, helpless and hurting. Not just respectable Catholics like us, who enjoy the fresh pastures and restful waters of the Eucharist, even as we walk in the dark valley of an increasingly uncertain and dangerous world. Christ gathers even those who do not consider themselves his disciples. Isn’t this what we find in the gospel, where the Son of Man assembles not just Christians, but all the nations?

Second, like a shepherd separating sheep from goats, Christ will judge between those who do belong to him, and those who do not. The former he will lead to eternal life. The latter he will send to eternal punishment. But how does one become a sheep? Again the answer is simple, but not easy to follow. To become a sheep, one must walk the narrow path of change that Jesus himself walked. The path of mercy shown to those most in need. I was hungry and you gave me food… a stranger and you made me welcome… The same path that led the Lord of the Universe to become poor, to make us rich (2 Cor 8:9). And all who walk this path, do not just serve Christ. They can also somehow be nourished by him. Just as we are nourished, whenever we serve at his Eucharistic table.

Isn’t this what we celebrate today? The consoling belief that Christ will eventually transform this troubled world of ours–burdened by so much war and conflict, deception and greed–into the truth and freedom, the peace and justice of God’s kingdom. Our part is to join this process, by starting with the one we see in the mirror. By nudging him (or her) to change his (often self-centred) ways.

Sisters and brothers, on this final Sunday of our church’s year, how shall we help one another to truly submit to change, so as to better receive the King of the Universe whenever he comes?

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