Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
As I write this, many in the U.S. are waiting to see what will happen in Ferguson, MO, when a grand jury decides if a police officer should be tried for the killing of a young black man, Michael Brown. A column on the Detroit Free Press editorial page (November 18) states, unsurprisingly, that people’s opinions about what will happen and what should happen depend a lot on race.
As I have been reflecting on this, what has come to me is a realization hat our courts, even at their best, are limited in what they can achieve. Even when they do what they should do, they can’t by themselves bring about the real peace we’re looking for. That requires a change of heart.
As people of faith, we look to God to lead us to that conversion. Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. Our Scripture readings point to the time when the kingdom of God will be brought to fulfillment. In our second reading from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul writes: "For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death." Oh, do we not yearn for the time when Jesus will relieve us of every "sovereignty," every desire to lord it over others, every delusion that we can live in isolation from each other and from the rest of creation, every prejudice and bigotry, every inclination to use others for our own gratification!
Part of letting Jesus in to lead us to that change is to take action. Jesus tells us what to do in our Gospel reading. Jesus gives us an image of the final judgment when people are judged by how they act on their faith; how they treat "one of these least ones." Those in need or on the margins are not "least" in God’s eyes. Jesus tells us that when we help them we are helping Him!
Are we willing to reach out to the "least?" Are we willing to listen and learn from them? Are we willing to consider "them" as part of "us?" We need to join the ranks of people doing just that. To me, part of the tragedy of what has happened not only in Ferguson, but in communities around the country is that, as connected as we are by technology, there are so many levels on which we don’t know or understand each other at all.
May we serve our King by serving others. May we follow Him to peace and justice and conversion of heart.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is on staff at St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.