Jesus Christ the King of the Universe A – 23 November 2014 – Thy Kingdom Come ….
Last Thursday evening President Barack Obama, in speaking about striving, hoping immigrants said “Scripture tells us, we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger.” Whatever one might think of the President’s executive action and its implications, when a government leader uses scripture from any faith tradition we are compelled to examine how the passage is used.
We might, for example, wonder about the appropriateness of the President’s quote in terms of today’s gospel which uses similar language. The author Matthew describes the words of Jesus, “I was a stranger and you gave me no welcome.”
Tensions between religious convictions and civic laws certainly are nothing new. They continue to frame the way in which many humans live today. For example, global anxieties abound as the Islamic State continues to advance its efforts to create a new kingdom or caliphate in the Middle East.
Here in our own country religious leaders continue to protest laws and government actions that deprive people from all races, creeds and nationalities of religious freedom, equal rights, fair wages, health care and educational opportunities.
Even the establishment of today’s solemnity of Jesus Christ King of the Universe occurred as the result of a church and state conflict. Pope Pius XI established the feast in 1925 to counter rising secularism and emerging nationalism in Italy. The break up of the papal states in 1870 left the papacy without temporal power in any region of Italy until 1929 when the Vatican City State was granted sovereignty.
The gospel today reminds us that to be a disciple of Christ requires us to take a stand to counter any ideologies, values systems, laws and the practices of big corporations that dehumanize people depriving them of a dignified way of life. Pope Francis said recently “it is painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by market priorities and the primacy of profit.” 
The author of today’s gospel was a Jewish convert, a writer. He reports what may have been a parable told by Jesus before his death. In it Matthew’s Jesus is giving a last warning to his followers and the church. He demanded a very different religious standard from what the scribes and Pharisees preached at the time. According to Raymond Brown, it was a liberal interpretation of the old laws challenging a world “that pays more attention to the rich and powerful.” 
This gospel teaching is prefaced by the first reading attributed to Ezekiel. The pre-exile kings were corrupt. The prophet foretold that God would take over the shepherding of the people. In the gospel of Matthew God seeks to serve the sheep, the people, through the actions of Jesus Christ.
This gospel reminds us of our own destinies. During our lifetimes, how have we used our talents, resources and convictions to stop injustices along the way? The celebration of the cosmic Christ as King of the known universe is designed to help us keep our focus on advancing the kin-dom of God for everyone.
According to scholar Marcus Borg the image of Christ, the revelation of God, as a king, ruler and judge seems far removed from the images of God as a gracious, compassionate, womb-like figure depicted elsewhere in the bible. Matthew’s message suggests that life on earth is all about meeting certain requirements in order to get into heaven! the threat of being judged by God for our sins at the last judgement was not central to Jesus’ teachings.  We don’t know for sure but Jesus may have said “who am I to judge?” Maybe we have to judge our own actions.
This past week I attended a workshop on living wages co-sponsored by our parish and the FOCUS churches of Albany, NY. Those of us there learned that the season of Advent, a time of great holiday expectations, will provide us with an opportunity to voice our concerns about raising the minimum wage in New York State.
As our lawmakers convene to vote themselves a raise in salary the Labor Religion Coalition is urging all of us to challenge them to raise the minimum wage for workers. That minimum is not the $10.10 talked about but $15.00 dollars an hour, which economists agree is the wage required today for people to live with some dignity.
Christ the King of the universe marks the end of our liturgical year and the beginning of a new time of endless possibilities. It is an opportunity to balance our priorities — to nourish not only ourselves, our families and friends but also strangers among us who desperately need our help. One might say, as our closing song today suggests, God has chosen us to do so.
1 Pope Francis. The International Conference on Nutrition. Vatican City, November 20, 2014
2 Brown, Raymond. Christ in the Gospels of the Liturgical Year (Collegeville; Liturgical Press) 2008, 398
3 Borg, Marcus. Meeting Jesus Again For the First Time (San Francisco: Harper) 1994, 85