Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Sounds a little like the title of a Marvel Superhero movie. And in some ways it is.
Jesus is talking about Divine Judgment in today’s scripture Parable of the Sheep and Goats. This is the final public teaching of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel and has one of the most important lessons for all Christian believers.
Jesus is reminding us that judgment will be based on the acts of charity or what the Church calls Corporal Works of Mercy.
We heard a few weeks back the Greatest Commandment. This week we hear about how to put the Greatest Commandment into action by showing our love for our creator and for our neighbor.
A few weeks back I heard about a person experiencing homelessness setting up shop outside St. Patrick. Mass was about to start and people didn’t know what to do about the poor soul living outside our Church door.
I said, not a problem, I’d be happy to talk to him. As I stepped outside to chat with the man, we instantly recognized each other. It was my friend Robert who we had worked with for the past few years with our MercyWatch outreach in Snohomish County.
When he saw me, he broke into tears and embraced me and we got caught up on what was going on in his life.
Some parishioners were shocked to see the deacon hugging a homeless person. One of our new parishioners witnessing all of this said, “What’s the deal people? So, the deacon knows a homeless guy.”
Yes, I know him, know his story, know his many struggles. He was a regular at Mass in Everett. Robert is a devout Catholic who attended Catholic schools. And now he lives on the streets of Seattle and is using our front porch to keep out of the rain.
He’s been attending Sunday Mass each week since our encounter and our MercyWatch team has been making special trips to St. Pat’s weekly to give Robert food, water, socks, blankets and other needed survival items.
We walk by these poor unhoused souls every day. Homelessness is exploding in our fair city. What are we Christians supposed to do?
We are to show love to our neighbor. And by doing so we show love for God.
In doing so, we encounter the sacred through our works of mercy and charity. This is what distinguishes holy Christian service from secular acts of kindness.
In this week’s parable, Jesus opens our eyes so we can recognize His presence in the “distressing disguise of the poor”, as St. Teresa of Calcutta described it, and know Him, love Him, and serve Him.
Such a new awareness should motivate us to readily demonstrate heroic generosity and compassion for others who are struggling on the margins. Especially in this time of pandemic.
Jesus also reveals something important about what the Church now calls the preferential option for the poor. These are “the least of these sisters and brothers” in the world in need of our care.
So, how can we provide this care as a paired parish community?
Beginning in the new year, we begin formation for a team of outreach workers to learn about how best to provide the ministry of presence and service to our unsheltered friends.
Once formed, this group will head out every Wednesday at Noon to provide needed emergency supplies to our street friends experiencing homelessness.
What do they most need? Besides food and water, the most requested items are socks, blankets… and rosaries. Yes, rosaries. Folks on the streets need faith, too, to sustain them in their plight and we have found rosaries in hot demand.
You can help simply by supporting our efforts: making sandwiches for our team, providing bottled water, socks, blankets, hats, gloves and handwarmers. All of these items will be needed for this effort. And everyone in the two parish communities can do their part to keep us in good supply.
Jesus reminds us today:
“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…”
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe was established by Pope Pius the Eleventh in 1925 to remind people that one person alone has a claim on our lives: Jesus Christ. We follow his lead always.
In the 1920’s authoritarian dictatorships were becoming common in Europe. The Pope wanted to counter this emerging popularity among the Catholic faithful.
The Popes encyclical announcing the Solemnity said this:
“Nations will be reminded by the annual celebration of this feast that not only private individuals but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honor and obedience to Christ. It will call to their minds the thought of the last judgment, wherein Christ, Who has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected and ignored, will most severely avenge these insults…”As we grow deeper in our faith, deeper in holiness, I invite you to become a part of the Sacred Encounters team as we together better put our faith into action and bring the love to Jesus to everyone.