A young man was drowning in the river. An older man who was passing by, saw him, jumped into the river and rescued him. A few years later, the same young man broke into a jewelry store and stole some expensive jewelry. He was later arrested and taken to court. His joy knew no bounds when he saw the judge and recognized him as the same older man who rescued him while he was drowning a few years earlier. He said to himself, “This man risked his life to save me while I was drowning some years ago, I know, he will certainly do everything within his power to save me today.” Contrary to his expectation, the judgment was passed, the judge pronounced him guilty and sentenced him to prison. The young man cried out to the judge and reminded him of how he saved him from drowning. The judge replied, “Youngman, the day you were drowning, I came to you as your savior, but today, I am here as your judge.” 

Today, we celebrate the solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Universal King. Today is also the last Sunday of this Liturgical Year A. Next Sunday, with the First Sunday of Advent, we shall begin the Liturgical Year B. Today’s readings present three images of Christ the King, namely Christ as Shepherd in the First Reading and Responsorial Psalm; Christ as the Risen Lord in the Second Reading; and Christ as Judge of All Nations in the Gospel Passage.

Over two thousand years ago, we were drowning in the river of sin when Jesus gave his life to save us. Jesus will come again, no longer as our savior but as our judge. As we come to the end of this liturgical year, the Gospel passage draws our attention to what the final judgment will look like. The Gospel passage reminds me of the week we referred to as AOC (Area of Concentration)/ revision week while I was in the Seminary. The week was so important that even Seminarians with health challenges would struggle to be in class during that week. The AOC/revision Week was the week towards the end of the semester when lecturers/professors revealed the areas of their courses that would feature in the semester examination. Seminarians would always hang onto every word that came from the professors during that week.

Christ, in today’s Gospel passage, reveals to us the Area of Concentration or the marking scheme that will be used for us at the end of time, namely human relationship. Hence the sheep at the right hand of the king will share in the glory of the King because of the high mark they got in their relationship with fellow human beings, while the goats on the left will go into eternal punishment because they failed in human relationship.

Some weeks ago, Jesus Christ faced the responsibility of summarizing the Commandments of the Law and He narrowed the Law down to Love of God and Love of neighbor. Today’s Gospel passage makes it even simpler by uniting the two as it replaces the word “and” with the word “through.” Hence, it is now the love of God through the love of neighbor. I call this “Heaven Made Easy.” For those who will make it to heaven will not be judged based on the number of times they fasted and prayed. They will not be judged based on the number of passages they were able to memorize from the Scriptures. They will not be judged based on the number of degrees they acquired in Theology. They will be judged based on simple things that we can all do: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned, and be attentive to the lonely. You do not need to know the definition of soteriology, Christology, pneumatology, or Mariology. You do not even need to know what we mean by Niceno-constantinopolitan creed. Of course, those are important, but they will be useless if you know them and still have no love for your neighbor.

Jesus says, “Whatever you did for one of the least brothers/sisters of mine, you did for me.” The implication of this is that everyone is now a suspect. Jesus might be hiding in that person you have been taking for granted. When you go home and your wife asks for a special Christmas gift, before you refuse her request, look at her very well and say “Hmmm, I smell Jesus in youuuuu; request granted.” Before you yell at your husband, remind yourself that he might be Jesus. That lonely neighbor of yours or that homeless man or lady might be Jesus in disguise. Now we know, and as they say, “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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