I must admit that I have always had trouble with the image of Jesus Christ as a king. The image of a king, for me, conjures images of overly powerful, often narcissistic men (sometimes women) garbed in gaudy robes adorned with gold and silver.
Yesterday’s reading from Ezekiel and Psalms seemingly confuse images more; Christ the King is a lowly shepherd? The image of the shepherd is nearly opposite to that of the king; little if any power, dressed simply for what is literally dirty work—I’ve worked with sheep—it is a smelly mess!
First, the Good Shepherd tends to Her flock with intimate love and care. Her loved ones don’t need a thing. Even if we must walk through the valley of Death—and we do—there is overflowing, abundant love that tends to us through the journey. It is as if the Good Shepherd sets a six-course dinner out just for us. And if we go astray, God draws us back into the tender care of the flock to be fed by a rich pasture.
I find this a rich spiritual and practical vision of living out the call of Pope Francis to care for our common home, the earth. In a materialistic, grotesquely greedy society we have lost sight, spiritually and practically, of how the Good Shepherd’s creation sets out a table of abundance for everyone.
Greed is evident all around in the current congressional debate about who will benefit from so-called tax reform—the most vulnerable among us are completely forgotten.
The way we tend to over-consume obscures the wisdom of the Good Shepherd and destroys the air, water, and soil that nurtures life.
And although Matthew 25 may seem to some like a harsh judgment, I find it full of love and hope. After all, if we do feed the hungry, provide clean water for people in Flint and beyond, heal the sick and provide universal healthcare, shelter the homeless and provide affordable housing, dress the naked, and visit and liberate the imprisoned then we intimately embrace the One who freely gives love, life, and hope. That is a spirituality and practice that prepares the Way for Advent and the birth of the One who really is King of the universe!
- For Jesus and Saint Ignatius, Matthew 25 goes to the very heart of practicing a faith that does justice. How do we practice Matthew 25:31-46?
- How do we entrust ourselves to care of God in the spirit of Ezekiel and the Psalmist? How do we care for the earth in new ways that renew the face of the earth and the intricate web of life that cares for all?
Alex Mikulich is a Catholic social ethicist and racial equity consultant. He is co-author of The Scandal of White Complicity in U.S. Hyper-Incarceration: A Nonviolent Spirituality of White Resistance (Palgrave 2013 and 2015). He co-edited and contributed to Interrupting White Privilege: Catholic Theologians Break the Silence (Orbis 2007) which won the Theological Book of the Year from the College Theology Society.