Nov 25, 2007

Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King - Cronulla Parish - November 25th, 2007.

Readings: Samuel 5:1-3; Colossian 1:12-20; Ps 121; Luke 23:35-43

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Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, in present-day Turkey, was brought before the Roman authorities in 155AD and told to curse Christ or he would be killed.  He replied, “Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong: how then can I blaspheme my king Jesus Christ who saved me?”  The Roman officer replied, “Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt.”  Polycarp refused and was martyred for his faith and devotion to Jesus the Great King.


Today we are celebrating the Solemn Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Universal King, the all-embracing authority of Christ, which will lead all people to seek his peace in His Kingdom. We honour Christ as the King of the Universe, the King of Heaven and Earth, by enthroning him in our hearts, permitting him to take control of our lives, and by praying “thy Kingdom come.”


Christ is the only ruler, leader, and person who we can trust entirely in, who we can hope and put our faith in. No politician, no talkback radio commentator and no friend can be trusted to deliver in the way that Jesus delivers for us.


But how each of us understand who Christ is can be shape according to our preferences, perhaps to the Greens, the ALP, the Liberals or whoever, and may be even perhaps according to our semi-conscious needs and desires, perhaps desires for technology, fashion, wealth or personal power.


Sometimes in the press there are appeals made to different versions of Christ, which are impossible to reconcile with the full Gospel evidence. We can be told that Christ was all-tolerant, all forgiving and never had a cross word for anyone!

But the Christ of the Gospels is much more complicated than any one-dimensional image or advertisement of political correctness. You cannot know Christ simply by listening to a 30 second advertisement, especially if it authorised by someone from Canberra who speaks very quickly.


Christ did speak of the primary importance of love, but he listed love of God as the first commandment with love of neighbour flowing from love of God.[1]

In today’s second reading St. Paul tells the Colossians how grateful they should be to God for having made them citizens of Christ's kingdom.  The Apostle then describes who and what their new sovereign is: “He is the image of the unseen God. He holds all things in unity.” (Col 1:15-16) Jesus is truly God and truly man, the true image of the invisible God and at the same time the perfect exemplar of true humanity.


This portion of St. Paul's epistle is aptly chosen for today’s feast to remind us that God’s kingdom is not just eternal life. Jesus “holds all things in unity.” We are citizens of his kingdom here on earth.


St Paul tells us that we “gain our freedom” (Col 1:13) through Christ, and we gain a place in the Kingdom of God. Every time we come to Mass and receive Christ, we gain more of our freedom, we become more like Christ we become more perfectly human and more perfectly divine. Jesus is the perfection of humanity and the perfection of divinity. By becoming more alive in Christ in a human sense, we are drawn towards Heaven.


In most of the prophecies given in the Old Testament books of Samuel, Micah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, Christ the Messiah is represented as a human king.[2]

The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the long awaited king of the Jews.  In Luke’s Gospel, we read: “The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever and his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:32-33)  The magi from the East came to Jerusalem and asked the question: “Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews?  We saw his star… and we have come to worship him.”(Mt: 2:2)   During the royal reception given to Jesus on Palm Sunday, the Jews shouted: “God bless the king, who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Lk 19:38)  On Good Friday, when Pilate asked the question: “Are you the king of the Jews?”(Jn 18:33) Jesus made his assertion, “You say that I am a king.  I was born and came into this world for this one purpose.”(Jn 18:37)  Today’s Gospel tells us that the sign which hung over Jesus’ head on the cross read: “This is the King of the Jews”(Luke 23:38) and Jesus promises paradise to the repentant thief: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”(Luke 23:42) Finally, before his ascension into heaven, Jesus declared: “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.”(Mt. 28:18)  


Jesus indeed is a unique king with a unique kingdom. Jesus Christ still lives as king, in the hearts of millions all over the world.  The cross is his throne and the Sermon on the Mount is his rule of law. In a short moment, we will be present at Calvary. Jesus’ throne, his cross and crucifixion will be present here on this altar. The preface for today’s Mass, the prayer which is said directly before the Holy, Holy, describes Jesus’ kingdom as a “kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”  Jesus is a king with a saving and liberating mission: to free humanity from all types of bondage, to enable us to live peacefully and happily on earth and to inherit eternal life in heaven.


The “kingdom of God” has three elements, in which we are drawn into deeper relationship with the King of Kings:

1.     It is the life of grace within every individual who does the will of God,

2.     It is the Church here on earth, the community of Christ’s faithful, and

3.     It is eternal life in Heaven. 


Christ’s kingdom establishes itself in our hearts, allowing us to participate in God's inner life.  We are elevated and transformed through grace, through the sacraments of the Church – by eating of Christ’s Body and drinking of his blood – the very same Body and Blood offered for us at Calvary and given to us at the Last Supper. This supernatural life of grace comes to fulfilment in the eternal life of Heaven, in the Beatific Vision, dwelling with God face-to-face.


We all should use the authority of Jesus’ message to spread the Kingdom of God, to bring people to faith, to build the community of believers and to help people to choose eternal life.


Yesterday our country voted on our leadership for the next 3 years. This feast is an invitation to all those who have power or authority in the government, public offices, educational institutions, in our families, and so on, to use that authority, which is given by God, for Jesus and His Kingdom.  Are we using our God given authority so as to serve the common good, Are we using it to build a more just society, or are we simply using our authority to boost our own egos, bank-accounts, power and control? Are we really praying “Thy Kingdom Come.”


 My friends, pray for our country. Pray for those in leadership, that our country will be united and that our leaders will exercise their jurisdiction in a way that builds the kingdom of God.


The Solemnity of Christ the King is not just the conclusion of the Church’s year.  It is a summary of our lives as Christians. On this great feast day, let us resolve to give Christ our Lord the central place in our lives, our society and our world. Let us resolve to abandon those things which replace God as the most important thing in our life, and mean what we say when we pray “Thy Kingdom Come”.


In the famous words of the earlier Church Christians:

Christus vincit!  Christus regnat!  Christus imperat!

Christ conquers!  Christ rules!  Christ reigns!


[1] At one stage Jesus drove the money changers from the temple, explained that God's forgiveness only has consequences when we are repentant and ask for forgiveness, and at different times he severely criticised King Herod, and the Pharisees.

[2] Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the Prophet Micah announced His coming as king. “You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel(Micah 5:1).  Daniel presents "one coming like a human being ... to him was given dominion and glory and kingship.”(Dan 7:13-14)

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