Today is a celebration for three reasons: 1) Jesus is King of the universe because He created it and rules it with love; 2) Jesus is our King, because He laid down His life for us in order that we might come back to God the Father; 3) After a month of talking about Jesus’ love for us, the Relationship Diagram, and where He is in our lives, we have a chance to state whether we’ve made Him the centre of our lives.
Remember, this isn’t done to please anyone and there’s no pressure, but, we state it publicly because Jesus said we should never be ashamed of being His followers. So, we’re just going to ask three questions: If we’ve made Jesus the centre of our lives; if we’ve done so in the past year; and, if we’d like Him to be the centre. Okay? Now, please put up your hand if you’ve made Jesus the centre of your life. Have any of you done so in the past year? And, if Jesus is not the centre, put up your hand if you’d like Him to be. Praise God! Thank you!
Today’s Gospel has practical implications for us no matter what we’ve chosen. Jesus says, “When the Son of Man [Jesus] comes in his glory, and all the Angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory” (Mt 25:31). St. Cyril of Jerusalem says there are two comings of Jesus: when He comes humbly and dies on a Cross, and when He comes in glory and judges us. The first is about being patient with us, the second is about wanting a decision from us. In the first, He allowed Himself to be judged by us, in the second, He will judge us.
“All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (25:32). Why is it that Jesus will judge every person? Because He died for every person and wants to know if we’ll love Him in return; He’s going to judge our love.
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…’ Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me’ (25:34-36,40).
Two things to note here: 1) If we’ve made Jesus the centre of our lives, we’ll still be judged on how we love people, because the way we treat others is the way we treat Him; we can still commit spiritual adultery by breaking His commandments and not loving our neighbour; we can still choose hell. And, if we haven’t made Jesus the centre, we’re still obliged to follow the commandments and love especially those in need. Jesus wants all of us to know this so that we don’t take His love for granted. 2) What if all of us here volunteer at soup kitchens, donate money to the poor, etc., but don’t love Jesus? Will we still go to heaven? This answer is ‘No.’ What’s the first and greatest commandment? To love God. Jesus taught so many times that we need to believe in Him and love Him (Mk 16:16; Jn 6:29; Heb 11:6). What do you think about parents who provide a home for their children, give them money, drive them around, but never talk to them and say they love them? Is that heaven? Is it good when children obey their parents’ rules but don’t love or trust them? Do you remember the joke about the wife who says to her husband, ‘How come you don’t tell me you love me anymore?’ The husband replies, ‘Well, I told you on our wedding day. I’ll let you know if anything changes.’
“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’… And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (25:41-44,46).
Notice that these people are surprised! They had so many opportunities to respond to Jesus but didn’t realize that, by their sins of omission, they were separating themselves from Him.
And ‘eternal fire’ and ‘eternal punishment’ mean forever. There’s no second chance to love Jesus once we die; we’re judged at the moment of death. So, it means we can’t wait forever to make a choice. Because there’s a human tendency in all of us to procrastinate, Jesus is saying we can’t delay forever our response to His love.
I’m trying to strike a loving but clear balance here: On one hand, we shouldn’t feel pressure to love Him; on the other, we can’t delay this choice forever. Therefore, if we’ve put up our hands for the past three years saying that we want to make Jesus the centre of our lives, I hope we’re making spiritual progress and moving towards this goal! Just don’t be lukewarm and procrastinate.
These kinds of life decisions do require time, but the time will come when we say, ‘What am I waiting for?’ This happened twice in my life: First, after some years of wrestling with Jesus’ invitation to the priesthood and to be celibate, I realized, ‘What am I waiting for? I know what I have to do.’ Second, when I realized that the Holy Spirit wanted me to be a diocesan priest and not a Jesuit or Benedictine monk. After a year of pondering it, I realized, ‘What am I waiting for? I need to sign up.’ I hope all of you feel that same freedom but the need to make a choice.
Today, could you just fill out the cards in front of you and place them in the offertory basket, please? Just circle which of the three diagrams describes your relationship with Jesus, and you can write your name if you’d like. The reason is so that we have data on the status of our community, i.e., are we growing closer to Jesus. For example, if this number stays the same for the next five years, it’s a sign we’re not growing. Thanks!
The most famous psychologist in the world, Jordan Peterson, who’s not Catholic, once said this about Catholicism. (Please watch 16:55-18:01.)
Dr. Peterson has been on a long journey towards Jesus, but will make the choice when the time is right. Interestingly, his wife, Tammy, revealed last month that she’s in RCIA and will be becoming Catholic this Easter. In the article about this decision, apparently, before marrying Jordan, he asked if she would commit to telling the truth. Having read one of his books and listened to him many times, my guess is that he’s seen the hell that comes into our world through lies, and wanted to know if his future bride would seek the truth no matter what. She spent a year thinking about it and then came back saying she would commit to a marriage anchored in truth. What we see here is that he asked her a question but gave her time to think about it. Yet, he couldn’t wait forever.
In 2015, she was told she had 10 months to live because of cancer. However, through the help of a friend, she started praying the Rosary, changed her diet, and, on the fifth day of a novena to St. Josemaria Escrivá, “doctors discovered that the medical issue had resolved itself on its own. The surgery was cancelled and she was discharged”. The point is that her journey towards making Jesus the centre of her life has taken 62 years, including the past very dramatic 8 years, but she eventually made a choice. This is another reason for us to celebrate!
Jesus says to all of us, ‘I’ve made you the centre of my life.’ Without pressure, He wants to know when we’ll do the same.