Feast of Christ the King-A
The coach was putting together the perfect team for the Cleveland Browns. In spite of all of his scouting, he still had not found the perfect quarterback.
Then one night, while watching CNN, he saw a warzone scene in a foreign land. He spotted a freedom-fighting soldier who threw hand grenades far and accurately. So the coach brings him to the United States and teaches him the great game of American football. And the Browns go on to win the Super Bowl.
After the game the excited quarterback telephones his mother. “Mom,” he says, “we just won the Super Bowl!”
“I don’t want to talk to you,” his mother says. “I heard gunshots last night. Your two brothers were beaten-up last week, and yesterday your sister’s purse was stolen in broad daylight.”
She pauses and then tearfully adds, “I will never forgive you for making us move to Cleveland!”
I hope that this story gives you an idea of how some of the original listeners heard today’s Gospel: the twist, the unexpected, the surprise part that caused them to raise their eyebrows and say: “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or naked or in prison and not minister to your needs?”
And then comes the punch line: “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”
This Gospel proposes two challenges for us. One is that we must pay attention to what we call the sins of omission. This is what we pray in the “Confiteor,” the “I Confess,” during the Penitential Act at the beginning of Mass: “I confess to Almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.”
We are often so busy avoiding evil that we fail to do good. The evangelist Billy Sunday was once asked what a person had to do to go to hell, to which he responded, “Do? Absolutely nothing.”
Sometimes people will say to the priest in Confession, “I really haven’t done anything wrong. I haven’t killed anybody. I haven’t robbed any banks.” And they pass right over the sins of omission.
Someone paraphrased the essence of today’s Gospel passage in these contemporary terms: “I was hungry, and you said, ‘Apply for food stamps.’ I was homeless and you said, ‘There’s a shelter in town.’ I was lonely and you said, ‘Well, get on Facebook.’ I was beaten, and you said, ‘Next time avoid dark alleys.’ I was naked and you said, ‘A local church has clothes.’ I was sick and you said, ‘Apply for Medicaid.’ I was illiterate and you said, ‘There are library cards.’ I was poor and you said, ‘Well, God does love the poor!’ I was imprisoned and you said, ‘Try the parole board.’ I was depressed and you gave me a smiley button. I was dying and you said that I would soon be in a better place.”
Jesus’ disturbing parable reminds us that it is not only what we do that will do us in, but also what we don’t do. That’s the first point of today’s Gospel: we must pay attention to our sins of omission.
The second point is judgment. You and I are going to be judged by Another, like it or not.
That seems rather insensitive to the ears of today. In this values-neutral society, we like to think that the highest level of moral judgment is our own self-measurement. But we are going to be judged by Another – with a capital A – Almighty God.
In the National Shrine of The Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., there is a ceiling mosaic over the high altar. It is a depiction of Jesus Christ the Judge. In one hand there is a lightning bolt and His face looks quite stern. Some have criticized that mosaic for being placed there. “It looks too severe,” some have said. Or, “That’s not the Jesus I know.” Really?
Sometimes we try to cosmetically alter Jesus. We attempt to tame Him down to our own liking. Perhaps, with New-age sensitivity, we want to see Jesus as a benign shepherd, with flowing styled hair, walking through perfectly landscaped meadows, leading a flock of some really cute lambs, and with Jesus saying beautiful things to beautiful people.
Well, there is more to Jesus than that, let me tell you. We are going to pray the Creed in a few moments, as we do every Sunday: “I believe in one God…” And in it we will profess our belief that “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”
We are going to be judged – not by our standards, but by God’s standards. And this Gospel tells us that one of the verdicts that could be heard at that judgment is: “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire!”
Perhaps that seems very harsh, but the King, who is our Judge as well as our Savior, goes on to say why: “Because when you neglected to do it for one of these least ones, you neglected to do it for me.”
To our relativistic, “I’ll-make-up-my-own-mind-about-what-is-right-and-wrong” society, this Gospel very boldly makes its points:  that we can sin not only by what we do, but also by what we fail to do, and  that we all will be judged one day by Almighty God.
This Sunday is the last Sunday of the Church year. For fifty-one weeks prior, we have heard the good news of Jesus Christ, declaring in so many ways His unconditional love for us. We have heard how far He will go to embrace us and to chase after us when we have strayed.
On this last Sunday, the Church reverses the equation and asks us how we have embraced and chased after Jesus in the poor and the spiritually needy.
This judgment-time question gets us ready for the second-chance of Advent, which begins next weekend, when we prepare to celebrate once again the first coming of our Savior at Bethlehem, and await His second coming in glory at the end of time.
Happy “waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ,” everyone!