Reading 1: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6
Reading 2: 1 Corinthians 25:20-26, 28
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
Be Watchful. And Act.
So much is vying for our attention these days. For many of us in the world today, the COVID-19 pandemic is a significant concern. For some, typhoons and hurricanes add additional chaos. For others, governments in transition are a great concern. For many, the pandemics of racism (named distinctly in each country), ecological indifference, and poverty are again in the forefront. There is much. Even if we are not experiencing some of these effects directly, many of us are watching these realities on our phones, computers, televisions, and print media. We know that being informed with credible information is extremely important – truth matters.
Yet we are called to more. Our readings this Sunday ask us to not simply watch but to be watchful. To be watchful is to be attuned, attentive. What would that look like? We hear from the prophet Ezekiel “Thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep…The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal….” Our God is watchful, and our concerns and wounds are not lost on God, who longs to respond. The prophet points us to the ways of God, calling us here as well.
Our watchfulness this week also includes Pope Francis’ message marking the 4th World Day of the Poor (November 15). Pope Francis initiated this day in order to help us be watchful well beyond a day. This year’s theme, “Stretch forth your hand to the poor” (Sirach 7:32),” is “a summons to responsibility and commitment as men and women who are part of our one human family. It encourages us to bear the burdens of the weakest, in accord with the words of Saint Paul: ‘Though love serves one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself…Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ’ (Gal 5:13-14; 6:2). The Apostle teaches that the freedom bestowed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ makes us individually responsible for serving others, especially the weakest. This is not an option, but rather a sign of the authenticity of the faith we profess.” With his gaze on the global community, Pope Francis explicitly calls us to be watchful, to see what we must see, to hear what we must hear — and to respond.
Yes, to be watchful is to be attuned, attentive and responsive. It is to act as we must, responding to the signs of the times according to the Gospel amidst the cries around us. Today’s Gospel reading calls for the same. In his commentary on the Gospel, scripture scholar Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP reminds us that “Matthew consistently wants good deeds to accompany our faith.” What does this look like? “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, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me…whatever you did for one of the least brothers [and sisters] of mine, you did for me.”
As we are watchful – attuned, attentive, and responsive – we are reminded of three things. First, that our call is to both care for these basic needs of our brothers and sisters and to address the systemic realities that create these cries. Second, we must do this together with our sisters and brothers. Third, we never do this alone. We are always accompanied by our God. Ezekiel offers an image of a tender God who reminds us that “I myself will give them rest.”
On this feast of Christ the King, we see here what leadership, as well as membership, looks like in the body of Christ.
So let us go. Watchful. Together. We are nearing the season of Advent, which will ask more of us in watching and responding.
Let us each and together pray to be watchful.
Sr. Maria Cimperman, RSCJ
Associate Professor of Theological Ethics
Director, Center for the Study of Consecrated Life