[Excerpted from the November December 2017 issue of Emmanuel. Barbara Shanahan is an alumna of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Illinois. She has led the Buffalo, New York, Catholic Bible Studies Program since 1992.]
The title “King” weaves throughout Matthew’s Gospel: “Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews? We have observed his star and have come to pay him homage” (Mt 2:2). This passage is from the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel. Near the end, the leaders and elders taunt Jesus saying: “So he is the King of the Jews? Let him come down from the cross” (Mt 27:42). Today’s feast of Christ the King brings us to the end of the liturgical year and near to the end of Matthew’s account of the public ministry of Jesus. The readings invite us to reflect on the manner of kingship demonstrated and taught by Jesus and left as an example for the community.
Ezekiel and Psalm 23 draw on shepherd imagery. Flocks were important to the way of life in biblical times, providing milk, food, wool for clothing, and skin for shelter. The task of the shepherd, the guardian of the sheep, also figures into the story. Israel’s ancestors were shepherds: Abraham and Sarah had flocks and herds; Jacob met Rachel by a well as she was watering her flocks. Moses encountered God while tending the flocks of his father-in law Jethro. David was a young shepherd who learned to be fearless when it came to defending those in his charge against a bully (or a giant).