“Thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep” (Ezek 34:11).
We celebrate Christ the King this Sunday, a paradoxical king who turns upside down all our presumptions about privilege and power. Both the first reading from Ezekiel and the famous parable from Matthew 25 use the image of a shepherd to describe God’s love for his people, especially the poor and those in any kind of need. Jesus described himself as a good shepherd who was willing to lay down his life for his flock.
I write this reflection on Nov 22, 51 years to the day President John Kennedy, a leader who enjoyed both privilege and power, was murdered, sending shock waves around the world. Some still debate who killed Kennedy and why, but there is no question that his death changed the course of US history. By the end of the 1960s, other assassinations and social turmoil over race, war and poverty effected a major political shift that dashed the progressive hopes for change that began the decade.
We live in history, just Jesus did. He saw how power and privilege oppressed the poor. He told his disciples it must not be so among them, lording over and competing with one another. They (we) were to seek the last place and every chance to serve. He set an example by washing their feet on the night before he died on the cross, a final act of service that saved the world and defined forever what real power looks like.
We are part of history, both its problems and their solutions. We may feel small and powerless, but every act of tolerance. reconciliation and kindness has its own expanding influence on others. To remind us to care for our most vulnerable brothers and sisters — the hungry, thirsty, sick, imprisoned, the alien resident and the persecuted — Jesus disappeared among them. “As long as you do it to one of these, the least of your brothers and sisters, you do it to me.” This is how we honor our king.