The Last Sunday of Ordinary Time: The Feast of Christ the King
My third attempt at crafting a homily for the Sunday readings. This time I had it pretty much worked out by yesterday, but was unable to find the time to write it up. And then at mass this morning I got a completely different understanding of the readings. While not ideal were I actually required to preach each Sunday, praying over the readings while at mass opens them up for me in ways that simply thinking about them during the course of the week does not.
Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the liturgical year. We continue the theme of last week’s readings: as we mark the end of the Church calendar, the readings lead us to reflect on the end of time, when Christ the King comes in glory to judge the living and the dead. The prophet Daniel brings his apocalyptic vision to its triumphant conclusion, when “one like a Son of man” is presented before the throne to receive “dominion, glory and kingship” and his kingdom will never end. Daniel foresees both the end of the world and the beginning of an everlasting kingdom. But the book of Revelation makes it clear that the kingdom of God is both still to come and with us now: Jesus, the Son of man, IS “the ruler of the kings of the Earth”. He reigns now: his kingdom exists now, though we cannot perceive it clearly.
This is because the kingdom of God is not like other kingdoms, and Jesus is not like other kings. Jesus did not pass from triumph to triumph, as the kings and emperors of his time did. Rather, before the glory of the resurrection, Jesus had to take up the cross and suffer death for the sake of his kingdom. In his dialogue with Pilate, Jesus emphasizes that his kingdom is not “of this world.” It includes the world—he is King of kings and Lord of all—but it is not like the kingdoms of the world. He does not have an army, only devoted followers. He will not command them to kill in his name, even to save his own life. Instead, he asks us to follow him, and to accept the cross.
Unlike the kings of the world, Jesus will not coerce or threaten us. Rather, he testifies to the truth and calls us to listen to his word. To become a subject of the Kingdom of God, we only have to accept the truth that Jesus proclaims. This was the message Jesus preached 2000 years ago, and it is the message we are called to respond to today. Each one of us, by our baptism, has been made a member of God’s Kingdom. We are called to maintain and spread God’s Kingdom today, while we await the day when Jesus comes again in glory and all things are put under his feet.
How should we respond to the truth that is Jesus, our God and King? With love and without fear. Jesus does not want us to fear him. Rather, he tells us again and again: Do not be afraid! The kings of old ruled by force and by fear. Jesus does not want us to fear Him! He wants love, not fear; he wants friends, not slaves.
So we should banish fear from our lives. We should not fear death: life is not ended but changed by death. We should pray for the fullness of days for every person: no one should have his or her life cut short by poverty, violence or disease. But when the end comes we should see it as both a time of sadness and a time of joy.
And in death we should not fear the judgment of God. Each one of us has sinned and fallen short of what God calls us to be, but God loves us and his mercy is broader than our sins. Seek his mercy and it will be given to you. Humble yourself, and you will be exalted. We can all find this mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation. Take it!
In our daily lives, we should not fear the powers of this world. In our world, there are many–terrorists and politicians—who want us to be afraid. They want us to fear them, or to fear others. They use our fear to divide us, to undo the work of God’s kingdom. Reject this fear! Do not fear the poor, the homeless, the addicts and the others trapped on the margins of society. Do not fear Black demonstrators. Do not fear immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. Do not fear Syrian refugees or other Muslim immigrants. Rather, seek them out and show them mercy.
Jesus said, “love one another, as I have loved you.” This is the message of the King. This is how we can serve him and make the Kingdom of God more visible today.