The vast majority of us do not remember the most important moment of our lives … the moment when we were forever baptized into the body of Christ. Perhaps even fewer of us realize and appreciate that during our baptism we were also anointed priest, prophet and king. Emphasizing the significance of this moment, Bishop Robert Barron once wrote, “the key to the renewal of our society is a recovery of the deepest meaning of baptism, to become priestly, prophetic, and kingly people.” So, what does it mean for you and me to live out the deepest meaning of our baptism? Simply put, as baptized priests, we are to help bring others to God and God to others; as baptized prophets, we are to speak on behalf of the most vulnerable among us; as baptized kings, we are to utilize our time, talent and treasure for the benefit of our neighbor.
This year’s Scripture passages for the celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, offer deeper insight into what it means for us to share in the kingship of Christ. Both the psalmist and the prophet Ezekiel invite us to recognize Jesus as a shepherd-king, who leads his flock with intimacy and tenderness. Beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul. He guides me in right paths (Ps 23: 2-3). Ezekiel develops the image of the kind-hearted shepherd-king, who seeks after the lost and tends to the broken: I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered…the lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal (34:15-16). Christ, the King, is a shepherd who seeks to draw near to us — near to you and me, who from time to time find ourselves lost and broken.
It is in this context that we can best understand Sunday’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew. For when the Son of Man comes seated upon his throne to separate the sheep from the goats, he does so as a shepherd-king who knows us intimately. Thus, the shepherd-king judges whether we have followed his example in seeking out and serving the most vulnerable among us. To those who have lived as kingly people, Christ the King will say, Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me (25:34-36). Take a moment to reflect, how have I lived out the deepest meaning of my baptism as priest, prophet and king?
Fr. Brennan, vocation director at St. Norbert Abbey, De Pere, earned master of divinity and theology degrees from Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.