The single law of the New Testament - the law of love - is constantly underlined by Christ. The Lord Jesus identifies himself completely with all the needy and suffering without exception; it is therefore possible, for all peoples, even those who do not know Christ, to accept him or reject him in the poor and the needy. In the last analysis, the only thing that counts for all peoples, is loving care and service of others.
The last Sunday of the liturgical year celebrates our Lord Jesus Christ as universal King of all peoples, and the whole of creation. It is a celebration in hope of the return of Jesus in glory, as Lord and Judge of all. It is the moment when Christ will come to claim the community of his faithful people, for whom he shed his blood.
According to Paul, this is when Christ
hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power...
It is the moment when his lordship and kingdom of love will be definitively established.
Even in dechristianized societies, the popular Christianity of our times liberally uses the phrase 'Jesus is Lord'. It seems to have a different meaning for the different people who use it, including peoples in countries founded on what was proudly called 'Christian civilization':
... all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil.2:9-11)
'Jesus is Lord!' The Pope has been making valiant efforts to prevent the exclusion of the contribution of Christianity from a possible constitution of the European Union. There are also discussions on the other side of the Atlantic, as to whether 'One nation under God' is unconstitutional.
When Jesus first entered our human condition, it was to teach us how to live and love and forgive; how to give of ourselves in sacrificial love, spending our lives seeking the will of the Father.
How do we prepare for his second coming? How do we build the 'kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace'?
Truth, grace and holiness, allow the lordship of Christ to have full sway in our lives. It is the way professionally to live out our baptism. Growing in truth, grace and holiness, we more easily recognize Christ in human beings who suffer, or are in need of compassion, understanding, acceptance and care.
As we look forward to the final coming of Christ, there is a certain tinge of fear and awe in our hope. It is sobering to note from the parable, that those separated from Christ forever did not commit what we might call the great crimes.
According to God's standards, they failed in love. They seem to be people much like ourselves, failing through omission. They failed to perform merciful, good and compassionate acts.
Yet, as Christians we look forward in confidence and trust. God's love for us in Jesus Christ is infinitely greater than all our sins and weaknesses. At the same time we should not overlook the possibility that we can choose to fail seriously, so that we are separated from Christ forever. Do we ever reflect on the uncomfortable and terrifying truth, that we can so choose so as to be separated from Christ forever?
The Lord whom we seek daily in prayer, intimacy, and partnership in establishing the kingdom, will return in glory as Judge. St. Vincent Ferrer, the Dominican, is perhaps the most famous preacher of fourteenth-century Europe. With tremendous success he fearlessly preached the judgment of God, and was nicknamed 'angel of the judgment'. To a lesser degree so did St. Luis Bertrand, the unpopular sixteenth-century Caribbean missionary.
It is very difficult for us to grasp that God's judgment and justice is exactly the same power as his mercy, love and forgiveness which we have all experienced.
The service of love and compassion for other human beings is what counts in the end. As we learn to recognize and serve Christ in one another, we can look forward 'in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ'.