Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Jaime L. WatersOctober 16, 2020
A health care worker in Detroit cares for a homeless man in early May at the Pope Francis Center during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Catholic Church will mark the World Day of the Poor Nov. 15. (CNS photo/Jim West

Today is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the feast of Christ the King. This is an opportunity to reflect on the past and plan for the year ahead.

"Whatever you did for the least, you did for me" (Mt 25:40).

Liturgical day
Ez 34:11-17; Ps 23; 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28; Mt 25:31-46

Do you look for God in all people?

Do you treat people who look differently than you as you would Christ?

What can you do to live out your faith through service?

Today’s Gospel is a culmination of themes that we have read in Matthew over the past few months: ethical actions, final judgment, rewards and punishments. Jesus shares a vision of the final judgment, describing himself as a king sitting on a throne, which is why this Gospel is chosen for this feast. Like a shepherd separating sheep and goats, Jesus groups people based on how they lived their lives.

“Sheep” show love and concern for others. They feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the imprisoned. “Goats” do the opposite, ignoring people who are on the margins of society and most in need. Each group is judged for their actions or inactions, with the sheep inheriting the kingdom and eternal life and goats receiving eternal punishment.

This parable of judgment is often invoked to remind people to serve, advocate for marginalized groups and seek justice. It sets priorities for the faithful by affirming that faith is not solely a person’s adherence to a set of beliefs but is an active care for people in the world.

The actions listed here are included in the Corporal Works of Mercy, as they stress physical needs to promote and sustain life. Jesus reminds us that by serving others and supplying their needs, we serve God. Moreover, by ignoring and blaming people and downplaying their needs, we disregard others and God: “When you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for me.”

Although this is an eschatological passage about future times, its purpose is to effect change in the present. The primary point is not to affirm Christ the King as the final judge but rather to affirm that Christ the King is present now among the poor, the immigrants, the sick and the imprisoned. The theological implications are massive and should not be minimized. Jesus proclaims that being a righteous person of faith means acting on behalf of those most in need, as Christ the King is with them. Living faithfully requires a commitment to serving and advocating for the most vulnerable in society, not dehumanizing, denigrating or disregarding them.

As we conclude this difficult year and prepare for a new liturgical cycle, we should reflect on what we have done and will do to live out the Gospel injunction to love and serve others.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

City and state/province, or if outside Canada or the U.S., city and country. 
When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

June 16, 2024, the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: From beginning to end, the Bible is filled with images of flourishing trees that symbolize the kingdom of God.
June 9, 2024, the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:Today’s readings explore morality and faith, but their background comes from a society oriented around the pursuit of honor, the avoidance of shame and the need for kinship.
June 2, 2024, The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ: Corpus Christi, the liturgical solemnity celebrated today, includes a psalm of thanksgiving that helps to set the tone for today’s readings. 
May 26, 2024, The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity: What is the right relationship between the three persons of the Trinity? It remains a mystery. Even so, this Sunday’s readings offer insights that can help us encounter the mystery and give it relevance.