The following homily was given by Bishop Loverde during the Mass in honor of Christ the King on Sunday, November 20, 2005, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More Cathedral in Arlington, Virginia.
On the last Sunday of the Church year, the Liturgy focuses our attention on Christ the King, Who is the source of holiness for each one of us and Who is the goal of our earthly journey. So, on this Sunday, we fix our attention on the Lord Jesus, Whom the Scriptures in this year's cycle A describe as a Shepherd-King.
Yes, Christ is the Shepherd-King Who seeks out and finds the strong and the sick: “Thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.” Christ is the Shepherd-King, Who gives new life. “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ.” Christ is the Shepherd-King, Who identifies Himself with the poor and the needy. “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, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” Moreover, Christ is the Shepherd-King, Who invites us to participate in His Kingdom by caring for those in need, with whom He identifies Himself. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did it for me.” Indeed, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Our attitude about our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love.” On the last day Jesus will say: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
On the Solemnity of the Kingship, Jesus reveals Himself to us as a shepherd Who shows us how to belong to the Kingdom: by showing love to the least of His brothers and sisters. I remember being struck by the following statement. “The greatest tribute we could offer to the King of the Universe is not the external pageantry, but the faithful living out of charity which is the virtue dear to the heart of Jesus.”
Yes, we belong to the Kingdom of the Shepherd-King when we reveal His love to the most needy among us by ourselves reaching out in His name to love them. Even though we ourselves, for the most part, live comfortably, there are many around us who do not. Our union with Jesus in prayer each day will help to see more readily and more quickly those around us, who are truly poor, lacking the very necessities of life itself. In practical ways, we must reach out to them, because it is truly Christ within them Whom we are serving. Our time, talent and treasure must be given to them if truly we belong to Christ's Kingdom. Sometimes, we offer our time, talent and treasure directly; of our time, we do so through an approved agency. Whatever the way we use to bring them help, we are truly practicing the virtue of Christian charity.
Certainly, the poor and needy in the material sphere are the object of the Lord's love and of our concrete assistance. Yet, we can also speak about the poor and needy in a very different way. There are those who are “spiritually poor and needy,” who likewise need our assistance. These are those who do not yet know the Lord Jesus as their Saviour or who are lazy or apathetic in their following after the Master. There are those who do not yet know the fullness of our Catholic Faith, which itself is rooted in God's Word, enriched by the living tradition of the Church and made clearer by the Official Teaching Office of the Church, the Magisterium.
Reaching out to these spiritually poor and needy takes the form of evangelization and catechesis. To evangelize is to proclaim that Jesus is Lord, the King of our hearts, and to invite everyone to come to Him. In doing this, our personal witness is so essential, a witness more by example than by words, although words are also necessary as we explain the beauty and content of our Catholic faith. So, do people perceive that we belong to Christ, that He is the center of our lives and the King of our hearts?
Once people come to understand that Jesus is the Lord, they must be formed in their relationship with Him. This is the purpose of catechesis. As the Catechism reminds us, “'At the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son from the Father" who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever'. To catechize is 'to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God's eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person. Catechesis aims at putting 'people" in communion" with Jesus Christ: only he can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and makes us share in the life of the Trinity'” (No. 426).
Christ is the Shepherd-King, who tells us that belonging to His kingdom necessarily involves loving the least of our brothers and sisters, those who are truly poor and in need, yes, the economically poor but also the spiritually poor.
As this current Church Year comes to a close, let us recommit ourselves to belonging to Christ the King! Let us invite Him to be the center of our lives and the King of our hearts! Let us promise Him that we will faithfully live out charity, the virtue dear to His heart, the charity that enables us to see Christ identified with the poor, the charity that impels us to serve Him in them. Listen! Jesus tells us once more: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brethren of mine, you did for me.”