Most often Advent, the four weeks before Christmas and the first season of the Christian year, begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving. But every now and then, the calendar provides a Sunday between. This is one of those years. In the liturgical year this Sunday is known as Christ the King, the final Sunday of what is called "Ordinary time," the Sundays after Pentecost, the longest season of the year. The way the year is completed, the culmination of ordinary time, is to celebrate that Christ is King.
The gospel story for Christ the King is Matthew 25:31-46 known as The Parable of The Sheep and Goats. This is a story Jesus told picturing the end of all time. In heaven God will be like a great king separating the faithful in two categories: those who did and did not care for "the least of these." In other words, Jesus is a king whose realm is defined by those who care for every person in the empire.
We hear a lot today about how divided our society is, and for good reason. We seem so divided politically and spiritually. There is perhaps no end to the ways we separate, and I get almost fatalistic about our divisions at time. But this story reminds me that heaven will draw a most simple division: did we care for the least of these? In other words, Christ won't ask which political party we are a member of, what denomination we are, what profession we have or what clubs we belong to. The key question will be: What did you do for the least of these?
In a world when it is so easy to feel there is little to nothing we can do to make the world better, Christ the King reminds us we are never so helpless as to do the one thing that matters most in God's realm - caring for one another. That is a good way to conclude the year and get ready to start a new one. Christ is still king and He seeks those willing to see him in the least of these. Let the year begin!