When I was first ordained a deacon, it was hard for those who had known me before my Ordination to start calling me “Deacon Frank.” For example, at the seminary, when I answered a question, my teacher would call on me: “Frank.” And then she would become very apologetic, “Oh sorry, Deacon Frank.” In order to show her it wasn’t a big deal, I jokingly replied, “It’s actually Your Majesty.” Because of this, the young adults at my parish started calling me “Your Majesty” in casual conversation. “Your Majesty, can you move that table?” “How’s it going, Your Majesty?”
This might sound goofy, but that is what we celebrate today on the last Sunday of the liturgical year: the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. We celebrate that the One we should really call “Your Majesty” became one of us. A traditional image of kingship in the Bible is of a shepherd, but as Jesus tells us, the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. He shows us that the true meaning of kingship is not to be served but to serve.
That is what is so striking about the First Reading. God keeps using the word “I.” Rather than sending down someone else to take care of the lost sheep, He says, “I myself will pasture my sheep.” God shows us that true kingship does not mean being distant from those you rule, but being close to them, in fact, becoming one of them.
The fact that God became man in Jesus Christ also has other implications. In the Gospel, at the end of time when Jesus comes in His kingly glory, He tells us that He will judge between the sheep and the goats. The standard He uses to judge them is an unusual one: “Whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Because God has become one of us, He has raised us up to royal dignity. In our baptism, we are made God’s children and anointed priest, prophet, and king.
But that also is a call for us to imitate Christ our King in laying down our life for our brothers, especially the poorest of the poor. I think this Gospel is scary because we can see so clearly what we are called to do, and how often we fall short. But if we believe that “the Lord is [our] shepherd,” then He will guide us in “right paths,” helping us to recognize Him in those in need.
As beloved children of the true King, we all have a claim to the title “Your Majesty,” but like Jesus, we are called not to lord it over others, but rather to serve as Jesus Christ our King has taught us. When we do this, then we can hope to hear Him say to us: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”