“Nice guys finish last,” they say... but not forever. Today on the Solemnity of Christus Rex, Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church's liturgical calendar, we remember that The Lord Jesus, The King of the Universe and Our Shepherd, will come at the end of time and set aright the scales of Justice. This is exactly what St. Paul described in our reading from 1 Corinthians, where "He will subject all things to Himself" so that "God will be all in all." At the end of time, Our Shepherd-King will reward those who have modeled their life after His own, and punish those who did not. Every good deed will be rewarded. Nice guys won't finish last.The shepherd that the Lord describes Himself as through the prophet Ezekiel is one that seeks the lost, recovers the stray, heals the sick, binds the injured – is this not exactly what Jesus demands in the Gospel when he lists what the Church coins as the “corporal works of Mercy”: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, caring for the ill, visiting the imprisoned? Those who follow the example of the Good Shepherd who cares for His Sheep will be rewarded abundantly, even if they don't realize that the good they do is in fact done to the Lord Jesus Himself, every single time.What about “the sleek and the strong” whom the Lord “will destroy” as Ezekiel tells us? These are the same as the Gospel's “goats” who do not live like the Shepherd-King whose life on Earth was a life of self-sacrificial love, building up the good of others, indeed all of us. When the King comes, they will also be surprised to find that whatever they did, it was done to God the Son.The reward and punishment are not kept exclusively for the future. We can see a foretaste of the future even now present to us. A life of virtue is its own reward: freedom, integrity, wholeness, peace. Likewise, a life of sin is its own punishment: slavery to our weaknesses, self-destruction, broken relationships, discord.Our Lord will come, let us prepare.
A word about the new translation of our Mass. The goal of the new text is simple: to help Catholics be more deeply transformed by the most powerful gift we have, the Mass and the Eucharist contained therein. It seeks to achieve this by elevating our liturgy with a more sacred and beautiful language that is so much more than just an invitation to pay more attention to what we say (though it is that, too). Further, by distinguishing the language of prayer from the everday vocabulary, the new edition of the Roman Missal will make us remember that the Mass is not some ordinary experience, but rather the highest activity that the human being can perform: adoration of Almighty God. I pray, I hope, and I believe that this new translation, as we acclimate ourselves and open ourselves to its depth, will help us enter into prayer and thus into the one and only thing that can fully transform our souls and bodies to be more like that of Our Shepherd-King, the God who is Love.