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Spirituality of the Readings
Solemnity of Our Lord
Jesus Christ, The King
of the Universe, A
November 26, 2023
John Foley, SJ
Your Choice?

This will be the last Sunday of the Church year. We will begin a new one, starting with Advent—which is our time of awaiting the birth of Jesus. On this last Sunday, the Church appropriately overviews the career of Christ the King.

Here is the story.

Have you cared for the hungry? Have you given water to the thirsty?

God has continually sought out his people throughout history, inviting them to a covenant* relationship. But the “shepherds of Israel” have let God’s sheep scatter over the face of the earth. They actually ate the sheep (which were God’s people), feeding themselves instead of feeding them (See Ezekiel 34: 1-10). So God pledged the words of the First Reading: “I myself will look after and tend my sheep. The injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.”

God’s care for his people has been exquisite, and it is the foundation of all our belief. He shepherds us today in this same way.

The Responsorial Psalm,“The Lord is My Shepherd,” is used here simply as a reply to the First Reading If I may paraphrase the psalm: “We sheep understand that God is shepherding us as he promised. Goodness and kindness are all around us. God lets us walk beside restful waters, through green pastures. We are filled with thanks.”

People of different generations sometimes have called God’s love to mind and sometimes have simply ignored it. The ones who forget it filled their lives with other gods—whichever seemed most attractive. Idols, these are called.

So, in the Second Reading, St. Paul tells us about Christ the shepherd, who is God made flesh. Although death and sorrow and sin had been on the rampage, Christ brought the light and peace and wholeness of the First Reading.

Then, in a parable, the Gospel tells us who will receive this light and peace. Not everyone! Some people have acted as perfect goats instead of sheep.

Which are you? The standard is extremely clear. Have you cared for the hungry? Have you given water to the thirsty? What about welcoming the stranger, giving clothes to those who have none, and what about visiting people in prison? This is what God did in the First Reading. It is what Jesus did in his life on earth. It is the loving duty he has entrusted to us who are his body, his band of shepherds. If you have acted in this way, then you are one of the sheep who have received Christ's love and who are very grateful.

But maybe you or I have never taken time to care for our least brother or sister.

Maybe we are goats!

If we continue that way, we should not be surprised when God says at the end of time, “you never did pass on to others the care I gave to you. You did not let me into your life. If you had, your gratitude would have led you to others! I have desired to shepherd you even now, but all I can do is affirm the choice you have made with your life. You have chosen to live without me, your God, and I have to respect that choice.”

This action of God shows the way a real king acts. He respects and honors his subjects’ needs and desires.

Do you or I want this? We have to ask ourselves in freedom whether we are letting God’s love into us now.

John Foley, SJ
    * Covenant: a formal alliance or agreement made by God with a religious group or with humanity in general.

Father Foley can be reached at:
Fr. John Foley, SJ

Fr. John Foley, SJ, is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go