Pastor’s Corner for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Year A, by Fr. Bruce Botha SJ

What do we make of a king whose throne is a cross and his crown thorns? What do make of a king whose judgement is not based on how well we have kept rules but on how we have served the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable in our society?


This realisation is liberating for some and deeply upsetting for others.


Many of us live a rules-based faith, where we gauge our own worthiness and the worthiness of others by how well we, and they, keep the rules. There is a certain comfort in that. We follow the recipe perfectly and get a perfect result – we escape the flames of hell, the suffering of purgatory and are rewarded with an eternity in heaven. I used to be like that as a teenager and young adult. I and God had a significant falling out, and I was determined to get into heaven even without his approval. After all, God had set up the rules, and if I followed them perfectly, he would have no choice but to let me into heaven. This was my teenage fantasy long before Ben Affleck and Matt Damon bought it to life in the move “Dogma.”  The movie is funny and irreverent and deeply thought provoking, so it’s one I would highly recommend.


I realised that I didn’t have to be the perfect rule keeper to be loved and accepted by God. That was a moment of such liberation and peace that it brought me to joyful tears.


For other people it can be an unsettling experience, discovering that we don’t have to live by the rulebook that most of us have lived our lives by, that there is in fact an overarching rule – love – that we are to live by, and how we live that rule of love is more important than many of the things we have staked our lives on, such as liturgical purity and an overly narrow understanding of human sexuality. The worst criticism about my preaching I have every had was that I preached too much about God’s love and not enough about God’s judgement and hell.


How do you experience the story of judgement in Matthew’s gospel? Do you feel liberated or resentful? As you sit with that emotional response try to find God in it. What might God be saying to you? What kind of life may God be leading you to today?


Fr. Bruce Botha SJ