Following is the prepared text from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s homily for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
November 26, 2017
On this Feast of Christ the King, He tells us what it will be like when He reveals His divine splendor: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit upon His glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before Him.” Christ’s royal majesty is magnified by the fact that He comes accompanied by “all the angels,” whose radiant presence helps us to visualize the transcendent glory of the King of the Universe. And where does He tell us to look for His glory? Wherever He makes Himself one with those who suffer. “For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me…” and so forth.
Even though the King of kings rules over all, nonetheless He “belongs to the poor and lowly (CCC #544).” From the beginning of His preaching, He told us that He was sent to “preach good news to the poor (Lk 4:18).” The Catechism states (CCC #544), “Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; He experiences hunger, thirst, and privations. Jesus identifies Himself with the poor of every kind, and makes active love toward them the condition for entering His Kingdom.”
All four Gospel accounts illustrate this tender love of our Lord for the poor, especially those who are poor through their own fault. “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners,” Jesus says (Mk 2:17). He invites us all to conversion because, unless we seek forgiveness we cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus shows us by everything He does that He is rich in mercy. He tells us that there is immense “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Lk 15:7). The supreme proof of His kingly love is the sacrifice of His own life “for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). So, we can be sure that Christ our King is never far from us even when we sin. He is never far from anyone who has lost their way in life. Like the Father of the Prodigal Son, Jesus is constantly praying and longing for our return to Him. Therefore, there is never a good reason to turn our back on someone who has hurt or insulted us.
Matthew’s account of the Last Judgment turns around questions: “Lord, when did we see you hungry…or when did we see you thirsty…or when a stranger…or when ill or in prison”? These questions are repeated numerous times in the Parable. Why? Because His glory and our redemption are bound closely to our response to them. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “It is very fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not fashionable to talk with them.” Jesus emptied Himself of glory in order to come among us as a man and to take our brokenness on Himself. He embraced all our poverty, both material and spiritual. More importantly He became one with us in all things but sin, and formed bonds of solidarity with each one so that nothing can separate us from His love.
After Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to His Apostles on several occasions. On one of these, He took Simon Peter aside and asked Him three questions: “Simon, Son of John, do you love me?” With these repeated questions, Jesus wanted to help Peter to keep in mind the one thing in life that matters most; the one question, in the end, by which we shall be judged: Did you love me? Do you love me in the least of my brothers and sisters?
Jesus, our Lord and King, personally identifies Himself with every form of suffering. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
In his own person, Jesus has abolished all distance between God and us human beings. As He says at the Last Supper (Jn 14:20), “I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” We who are one in Christ are also one with every other person. This is why St. John writes in his First Letter (1 Jn 4:20f). “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
The glory of Christ is reflected in men and women who love—in those who are fully alive because they have embraced His mercy and become merciful themselves. The immensity of Jesus’ majesty and the wondrous nature of His glory are found in His Kingdom. That’s why He taught us to pray: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”