Works of Mercy
(Christ the King: Ezekiel 34:11-17; 1 Corinthians 14:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46)
For three weeks now the Gospels have pointed to a moment of judgment, using a different standard in each case. Two weeks ago it was readiness for Christ’s return; last week it was resourcefulness in his service; today it is the works of mercy.
A king on his throne is at the top of the social hierarchy. Christ our king, however, identifies himself with “these least ones,” those at the margins of society. Serving him must include reaching out to them.
The Church teaches that, besides feeding the hungry, we must work to eliminate the underlying causes of hunger. This principle applies to every work of mercy we can imagine, whether “corporal” or “spiritual.” It often requires the courage to speak unwelcome truths.
Mary at La Salette, not forgetting that she was a lowly servant, identified with “these least ones” in her choice of witnesses. She offered a remedy for the spiritual causes of her people’s bodily sufferings, by speaking the truth about their lack of faith in and reverence for her Son, Christ the King.
The goal of reconciliation is to restore peace; this is an appealing and comforting thought. The work of reconciliation, on the other hand, as exemplified by the Beautiful Lady, is not easy. It calls for gentle firmness. This can be a challenge.
In the rite of baptism, the anointing with sacred chrism unites us symbolically with Christ as Priest, Prophet and King. This means we share his role of guiding, leading, and protecting his flock, of caring for his people. How we do this depends on many factors, including our personality, our talents, and our most deeply held values.
If nothing else, most of us can try to lead by example—speaking truth and acting rightly, in such a way as to attract others to do the same.
At the same time, the spotlight is not on ourselves. Whatever form our works of mercy might take, they are never a performance. Jesus is at the center, and at the beginning, and at the end. If we can serve as channels of his truth and love, we need never fear the coming judgment.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.