Saturday, November 22, 2008

Did You Love Me?--Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ The King

November 23, 2008, Year A

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

Reflection on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme: Did You Love Me?

Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?"  He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?"

In one respect today's Gospel gives us pause to ask, "How simple can it get?"  Professing to love God, loving our neighbor is simple, "Isn't it?"  

Before us is the final judgment, when Jesus sits upon his glorious throne, separating the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, the righteous from the unrighteous.  Some may ask how the Lord makes his determination.  How do you get included in the group on his right hand to whom he says, "Come, you blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world?"  

Certainly way back in the early sunrise of time, Cain rebuffed the Lord with, "Am I my brother's keeper?" This is a terribly incorrigible response.  Obstinate and arrogant, Cain smugly justifies himself.  However, there is no justification for his crime against his brother, one who bore like him the image of God.

Today, this final Sunday of this Liturgical year is the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King.  And the Gospel lesson presents us with the final judgment at which our benevolent King is concerned about how we treated the least, the lost and the lonely, who like us bear the image of God.  Many like Luther the Reformer believe 'faith alone' will be the criteria by which eternal life will be gained.  

But faith divorced from love is sterile and self centered.  St. Paul in his corpus  concerning justification describes faith working through love; explaining the whole law is fulfilled in one word, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."(Galatians 5)  

There are some who make a good living writing books describing conspiratorial details about the end of time, ignoring the weightier matters of love.  But the end will be judged like the beginning, when God, the Son of Man asks, "How is it with your brother?"

I grew up in a faith community that placed a high priority on 'the signs of the times.'  Speculation abounded as preachers held the daily news in one hand and the Bible in the other, ascertaining when the end might come.  Forcefully proclaiming the rightness of their interpretation, fear gripped the listeners as an eschatology of pessimism was preached.  Not being left behind was the preoccupation of young and old.  The watchword was 'Jesus is coming,' 'we're leaving,' and 'it's bad news' for those 'left behind.'  So 'flying way,' and 'good bye world, good bye,' was sung with gusto as the nightly news confirmed the end was near.

However, the end of time occurs differently from the fear mongering I've just described as we reflect on the readings for today.  Faith in Jesus Christ brings us to love, overwhelming love, love that does not leave anyone behind.  There is no fear in this love, for perfect love casts out fear.  Faith springs from the loving touch of Christ's hand on our heart.  

Embraced in Jesus the Christ, we are enclosed in a garden of plenty.  This fullness of life in the beloved is why Jesus will ask on that day when all the nations are assembled before him, "Did you love me?"     

Christ reigns today, and must reign until he has put all His enemies under his feet.  Death is the last enemy to be destroyed.  In the mean time we must relieve the hungry of their hunger, the thirsty of their thirst, the naked of their nakedness. Hunger, thirst and insufficient clothing certainly precede a certain death.    

The early church took care of one another holding all things in common; their needs and their resources.  Loving one another as Christ has loved us is the fulfillment of the law.   Whatever we do for one of the least brothers of Christ we do it for Jesus. 

I began this reflection saying, Professing to love God, loving our neighbor is simple, "Isn't it?" 

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, many have no strength of their own, help me to be their strength.  Many have no friendship, help me to be a friend.  Many have no water of their own, help me to give them a drink.  Whenever I see you weak, lonely and parched, dear Jesus, may I be your brother.  Amen.

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