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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - The One True King

Robert Barron - The One True King

Robert Barron - The One True King

Peace be with you. Friends, we've come to the  end of the liturgical year, which means the feast of Christ the King. We always end the year with this reflection on the kingship, the lordship of Jesus. It's interesting how this feast was instituted at the beginning of the twentieth century, with the rise of the totalitarian dictatorships. And the Church was saying, "No, no, no" to all those false claims to ultimate authority. Ultimate authority for us belongs to one person: Christ the King. Well, for this year, the Church gives us, as the first reading, a marvelous passage from the thirty-fourth chapter of the prophet Ezekiel. Again, one of the most compelling of the major prophets, complex, fascinating, rich.

Well, Ezekiel, as I probably told you before, was a temple priest, certainly. And he was carried off in the first wave of the Babylonian exile. So, around the year 600 BC. He was, in a word, witness to the greatest catastrophe in the history of Israel. Israel, which was meant to be the nation to gather all the nations of the world, the nation to give God right praise and thereby attract everyone in the world, that nation of Israel is now crushed, defeated, its capital city destroyed,  its temple burned down. That's what Ezekiel is dealing with: that catastrophe at the heart of Israel. Now, he certainly would have recognized that, to a degree, foreign potentates were responsible for this disaster. But he also saw that very bad leadership on the part of Israel's shepherds was also to blame. Listen now. Some of these passages are just stirring, as Ezekiel goes into high dudgeon against the leadership of Israel.

Listen. "Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! ... You eat the fat, you clothe  yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed". So, using this master metaphor of sheep and shepherd, he's saying, "You leaders of Israel have been so derelict in your duty and responsibility that you've contributed to the disaster". So, what will God do? Now, here's Ezekiel channeling, in my judgment, some of the most important words of the Lord in the whole Old Testament. Listen. "For thus says the Lord GOD... I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered... I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them [back to] their own land". "My holy people have been very badly shepherded", that's what he's saying, "I've tolerated this long enough. So I myself will come to shepherd my holy people".

Now, to be sure, God has been sending representatives. That's what Israelite history is all аbout: the patriarchs and the prophets and the great heroes, God sending people. But here is a prediction, a promise, that God himself will come, in person, to shepherd his people. Now, I think, everybody, it is impossible to understand the New Testament apart from this prophecy. Jesus presents himself not as one more in a long line of prophets. "There's Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos, and Hosea, and Ezekiel, and Daniel, and now there's Jesus". No, no, no, no, nothing as trite and trivial as that. Rather, Jesus presents himself speaking and acting in the very person of the God of Israel, and therefore, as himself, the one who has come to shepherd his people. So when he says in the Gospel of John, "I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and mine know me," he's not just saying, "I'm one more representative of God". He's fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel. Bad shepherds have caused disaster, so I myself will come and shepherd my people. That's who Jesus was. That's how they saw him.

Now, with that in mind, let's go right back to Ezekiel's prophecy and see if it doesn't shed extraordinary light on the life and ministry of Jesus. So here's what Ezekiel said: "You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick". That's his word to the false kings. What did Jesus do in his ministry but reach out, again and again, to strengthen the weak, to cure those who were sick? Listen: "You have not bound up the injured". What did Jesus do? He bound up the wounds of those injured. "You have not brought back the strayed". What did Jesus do? Again and again, he reached out to those on the margins to bring them back in. Listen: "I", this is now Yahweh speaking through Ezekiel, "I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places ... they have been scattered".

What did Jesus do in his public ministry but just that? He reached out to the scattered sheep of the house of Israel. He was, in his own person, fulfilling this great prophecy of Ezekiel. Now, keep pressing it. Jesus Christ, having gone now to the limits of godforsakenness, having, listen, sought out even the most abandoned and the sheep who have wandered the furthest, he's gone all the way to godforsakenness, then is brought back, through the power of the Spirit, from the dead. How is he described in that gorgeous Letter to the Hebrews? Listen: "Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant".

Good shepherd, yes indeed, in his public ministry, in his healing, in his reaching out, his gathering in. But where is he most fully the good shepherd? Precisely in his journey all the way to the bottom of sin and death, and then in the Resurrection leading his sheep forth. That's the fulfillment, even beyond the dreams of Ezekiel, of Ezekiel's prophecy. Press it further. What's the command of the risen Christ to his Apostles? Go and preach to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. What does the great shepherd of the sheep do? He now raises up shepherds after his own heart, who will continue his very work: healing, binding up wounds, calling in those who are on the margins back home. There's the work of the Church. We are the shepherds now under the aegis of the great shepherd of the sheep.

Now, who's being described here, everybody? I'm going back to Ezekiel, coming up to the New Testament, looking at the dying and rising of Jesus, looking at the sending forth of the disciples. What am I talking about? I'm talking about Christ the King. I'm talking about Christ the King. The bad kings of Israel have now been supplanted by this great shepherd of the sheep, this great King, listen, who is drawing us under his aegis to serve his purposes. He's meant to be, yes indeed, the King of Israel and the King of all the nations. And we are the servants of this great King. A final step. What does all this look like on the ground? What does Christ's kingship look like? What does our participation in his shepherding look like? Well now, we glance at the Gospel for today, which is that magnificent and chilling passage from the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew: the parable of the sheep and the goats, and Jesus the judge at the end of time, separating them out. On what basis?

Well, we know it, probably by heart, all of us Christians. "When I was hungry, you gave me to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave me to drink. When I was naked, you clothed me. In prison, you visited me, etc". The shepherd of the sheep, Christ the King, sends us out to do that work. That's how we shepherd. That's how we participate in his kingship. And so can I suggest this, everybody, on this feast of Christ the King: this is a wonderful way for us to examine our consciences. Take this passage from Matthew 25. Here's the words of the great shepherd of the sheep. How are we participating in his work? Maybe at the end of the day, we could all ask ourselves, "Did I follow the command of the King today? Were there people that crossed my path today who were literally hungry for food? I mean, not far from where I live, you can find people a few blocks away, literally hungry for food. Did I feed them"?

Press it: "Were there people that crossed my path today hungry for attention, hungry for a few moments of my time? Did I feed them? Were there people that crossed my path today who were literally thirsty? There are a lot of them, by the way, around the world, including in our country. But were there perhaps people that crossed my path today thirsty for love, thirsty for kindness, thirsty for friendship? Did God place in my path today perhaps a stranger dying on the inside from loneliness? Did he put in my path today someone who literally needed clothes? Or perhaps needed to be sheltered from attacks and from gossip? Did I have today the opportunity to visit somebody in prison? Or perhaps to help free somebody from the imprisonment of his addiction"?

When we do these things, everybody, when we do these concrete things, we are operating in tandem with Christ the King, exercising his lordship over space and time. When we do these things, we are cooperating with the great shepherd of the sheep, who's been sent to shepherd his own people, but we are the privileged means by which he does this. And so, on this feast of Christ the King, we do indeed look to him, and we give praise to him; we acknowledge him as our Lord. But we also look very seriously at our own cooperation with him. And in Matthew 25, get out your Bibles, take a look at it again, read it prayerfully, in that passage, we find the criterion by which to determine whether we are following that King or not. And God bless you.
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