Monday, November 25, 2013

Homily Christ the King Year C: Seeing Christ For Who He Truly Is

As we have seen over the last few weeks, everything has led up to today’s Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, on this last weekend of Ordinary Time. Next weekend marks the beginning of Advent and the beginning of a new Church Year as we wait with joyful hope for the coming of our Savior at Christmas and throughout our lives. We celebrate Christ the King at the end of the Church year so that we can see His Crown is the Crown of the year, the capstone, the crowning achievement. All of the action of the Church Year moves forward and up to His Kingship and is summed up by it. He is the King of all we have done and all we have celebrated. Everything from his Incarnation to his Ascension to the right hand of the Father is both a sign of his Kingship and a testament to it. We will praise and glorify his Kingship through the prayers and hymns of this Mass. He is our king in here. Is he our king out there?

Luke’s Gospel today puts us into a terrible scene: Jesus is dying of his crucifixion while the rulers, soldiers, and criminals around him mock and jeer at him. Over his head hang his death sentence. It was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin so that all peoples of all nations who passed by could read it. The Latin read, “I.N.R.I.” (“Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum”) – Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. He claimed to be king, but the Jews and the Romans already had their king, King Herod. Therefore, Jesus was killed.

“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself,” they jeered. One of the criminals mocked him: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” His persecutors were so blinded by their sin and hatred that they could not see Him for Who He truly is. They were expecting a worldly king with worldly power. They could not see that here hang before them the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the King of a kingdom not of this world, but of God. Earlier, when Pilate asked Jesus if he was the King of the Jews, Jesus answered, ‘My kingship is not of this world… For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”

His cross was his throne. Upon this throne, Christ the King achieved much more than we would expect by appearances alone. He achieved for all mankind of all times freedom from the torture of sin and death. Jesus always gives us more than we ask for and more than we expect. The good thief who hung at his right was moved to conversion by Jesus’ courage and resolve and by the prayers of forgiveness that Jesus offered for those who persecuted him. He recognized Jesus for who He truly is. And so he asked Jesus simply to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. But Jesus gave him infinitely more: everlasting happiness with him in Paradise. This was given to the good thief because he saw rightly, he acknowledged Jesus as his king, he repented of his life of sin, and he prayed that Christ the King would be mindful of him.

Is Christ our King, not only in this church, but in the rest of our lives as well? His kingship is easily recognized in Church when we are singing and praying about it. Can others recognize his kingship in the temple of our hearts? The Israelites in the Old Testament knew a king when they saw one. Our first reading described how the elders of Israel chose David to be their king because he “led them out and brought them back”, he shepherded them, he fed them, and he successfully commanded them in battle. And so the elders anointed David king of Israel. Can we recognize a king when we see one? Have we forgotten what the angel Gabriel proclaimed to Mary about her newborn Son? “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Have we forgotten what Paul reminds us in our second reading, that at our Baptism and every time we go to Confession, “God delivers us from the power of darkness and transfers us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”? Christ truly is our King and when he shepherds and feeds us through the sacraments, we are brought into his kingdom.

Let us treat this week, the end of the Church Year, like we often treat the end of the calendar year. Often the rolling of one year to the next causes us to look back and see how we have done. We may check our budget for the year and see how it panned out. We may check our expenses to see where we might save a little in the new year. This week, let’s look back on our spiritual year. Let’s call to mind how well we have been servants of our good and merciful Lord and King. Have we acknowledged him as our King? Or have we anointed another to be king in his place? Have we placed on the throne of our hearts a tyrant? In essence, have we preferred King Herod over Jesus Christ? Has our homage been to our work, our money, or the latest technology? Have we adored our reputation or our passions? Have we bowed down before our anger, our jealousy, or our laziness? So many things, people, and spirits are masquerading as our king, vying for our devotion. The more we choose Christ as our King, the easier it will be to recognize him, and to choose rightly every time. The more we choose Christ, the easier it will be to recognize when a fake presents itself.

It is never too late for any us of to begin following Christ our King more closely than we have before. The good thief in our Gospel, who hung beside Jesus at the bitter end, tells us that it is never too late. If His Crown has fallen away from your life, restore it to the summit of your heart through the Sacrament of Reconciliation at your first opportunity. Consider that when you receive Communion, your loving, forgiving, merciful King not only fulfills the Israelites’ ancient desire for a king like David, he fulfills all of our deepest desires, he leads us out and brings us back, to shepherd us, to feed us, to successfully command us in our daily battle toward union with him and the good thief in the Kingdom of God.

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