Jesus Christ is King, but he reigns not with force or violence or human power. He does not force people to do his will, to be good, to follow his Law. The power with which he reigns and rules is divine power. And since God is love, he reigns with the power of love.
His throne is the floor, where he kneels to wash the feet of his disciples, teaching them that, while the kings of this world “lord it over” their subjects, it must not be like that for his followers. The greatest must be the servant. The first must be the last.
His throne is the cross, where he shows a power greater than all worldly power. It’s the power of love, a love unto death, a love that will overcome death and give life. To his pierced heart on the cross he will draw all people to himself. He will attract them to himself rather than forcing himself upon them.
The power of this love overcomes hatred with mercy as Jesus prays for those killing him and asks the Father to forgive them. The power of this love overcomes every enemy, including death.
Each of us will die, but that won’t be the end of us. We are made for more. We will enter eternal life where we will be judged. The final judgment depicted in Matthew 25: 31-46 is not something imposed on us from outside, but is the natural conclusion or outcome of our lives.
St. Catherine of Siena once said, “All the way to heaven is heaven.” That being so, all the way to eternal alienation from God and the saints begins right here as well.
The striking thing about the judgment scene as described by Jesus is that people do not recognize him in the poor and suffering. Those who act compassionately do so not to gain a reward, or because they were told to do so and are afraid of punishment. Their actions come naturally to them. They appear to be instinctively charitable. Perhaps, when they see someone suffering, they imagine what it would be like to be in their circumstances, and they respond. They see others with the eyes of their hearts and are moved by their suffering.
Those who do not recognize Jesus in the suffering see something else. They see in the other a drain on their time and energy and resources. They see an annoyance, a frustration, a threat, an enemy.
Jesus tells us to see others with an instinctive charity, to see others with hearts that are moved with pity for their suffering. We are to see others with a heart like the Sacred Heart of Jesus which sees them as precious to the Father and which so desires their well-being that it is willing to die for them.
Our challenge is to see all people this way.
They include the homeless person begging with a sign where we are stopped in traffic. They include immigrants and prisoners. And yes, they include politicians on both sides of the aisle. How do we view the people we see on the television news or read about in the papers? Do we see them as persons precious to Jesus because he shed his Precious Blood for them? Or do we mentally dispose of them as garbage.
If we ignore them or reject them we will find ourselves living as “goats” in the kingdom of darkness, a darkness that begins here and now, in our hearts and all around us.
One way that we dismiss and dispose of people is gossip. This is a particular concern of Pope Francis.
In his General Audience of September 25, 2013, Pope Francis said: “Let each one ask him or herself today, ‘do I increase harmony in my family, in my parish, in my community or am I a gossip? Am I a cause of division or embarrassment?’ Gossip does harm. Gossip wounds. Before Christians open their mouths to gossip, they should bite their tongue! To bite one’s tongue: this does us good because the tongue swells and can no longer speak, cannot gossip. Am I humble enough to patiently stitch up, through sacrifice, the open wounds in communion?”
Good questions which challenge us to live right now in the light of heaven with its charity and peace. Doing this, we enthrone Jesus as King of our hearts.
Lastly, in speaking about this Gospel in his General Audience of November 27, 2013, Pope Francis said that if we have this instinctive charity we will have no fear. We will be able to face death without fear. The way to follow Jesus into the heavenly Kingdom prepared for each of us is charity. He said:
“A sure path comes by caring for the bodily and spiritual wounds of our neighbor. Solidarity in sharing sorrow and infusing hope is a condition for receiving as an inheritance that Kingdom which has been prepared for us. The one who practices mercy does not fear death. And why does he not fear it? Because he looks death in the face in the wounds of his brothers and sisters, and he overcomes it with the love of Jesus Christ. If we will open the door of our lives and hearts to our brothers and sisters, then even our own death will become a door that introduces us to heaven, to the blessed homeland, toward which we are directed, longing to dwell forever with God our Father, with Jesus, with Our Lady and with the Saints.”