During his homily at Mass this morning for the Solemnity of Christ the King, Pope Francis spoke about the Gospel reading from Matthew, on God’s judgement. He reminded us that God gives us the freedom to choose what to do with our lives:
Life, we come to see, is a time for making robust, decisive, eternal choices. Trivial choices lead to a trivial life; great choices to a life of greatness. Indeed, we become what we choose, for better or for worse. If we choose to steal, we become thieves. If we choose to think of ourselves, we become self-centred. If we choose to hate, we become angry. If we choose to spend hours on a cell phone, we become addicted. Yet if we choose God, daily we grow in his love, and if we choose to love others, we find true happiness. Because the beauty of our choices depends on love. Remember this because it is true: the beauty of our choices depends on love. Jesus knows that if we are self-absorbed and indifferent, we remain paralyzed, but if we give ourselves to others, we become free. The Lord of life wants us to be full of life, and he tells us the secret of life: we come to possess it only by giving it away. This is a rule of life: we come to possess life, now and in eternity, only by giving it away.
Francis concludes his homily with some advice. He tells us that the Holy Spirit does not plant the question “What do I feel like doing?” in our hearts, but “What is best for me?” He asks us to chose daily to ask ourselves what is best, rather than simply what we “feel like” doing. By turning towards Christ every day and asking this question, we will discover joy. We will learn to live, and not to simply get by in life.
Also today, Pope Francis spoke about Christ the King in his Angelus address. He explained the paradox that Christ presents: the great King and mighty Judge, but also the humble shepherd:
He, the one whom men are about to condemn is, in reality, the supreme judge. In His death and resurrection, Jesus will manifest Himself as the Lord of History, the King of the Universe, the Judge of all. But the Christian paradox is that the Judge is not vested in the fearful trappings of royalty, but is the shepherd filled with meekness and mercy.
Additionally, Christ identifies not simply with the shepherd, but also with the sheep:
He identifies Himself with the least and most in need of His brothers and sisters. And He thus indicates the criterion of the judgement: it will be made on the basis of concrete love given or denied to these persons, because He Himself, the judge, is present in each one of them. He is the judge. He is God and Man, but He is also the poor one, He is hidden and present in the person of the poor people that He mentions: right there.
And lest anyone imagine Francis is a sentimentalist, he also makes clear,
The judgement will be on love, not on feelings, no: we will be judged on works, on compassion that becomes nearness and kind help. Have I drawn near to Jesus present in the persons of the sick, the poor, the suffering, the imprisoned, of those who are hungry and thirsty for justice? Do I draw near to Jesus present there?
Recalling the Parable of the Good Samaritan—which was central to his encyclical Fratelli Tutti—Francis calls on us to draw near to those who are most in need, as Jesus asked us:
I am not saying it: Jesus says it. “What you did to that person and that person and that person, you did it to me. And what you did not do to that person and that person and that person, you did not do it to me, because I was there”. May Jesus teach us this logic, this logic of being close, of drawing near to Him, with love, to the person who is suffering most.
To Jesus Christ, our Sovereign King, who is the world’s salvation, all praise and homage do we bring and thanks and adoration.
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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.