Fr. Mark's Homily - November 21, 2010
Feast of Christ the King
Today we come to the end of our liturgical year with the Feast of Christ the King. Our gospel today presents the Lord Jesus as the Crucified King dying on the Cross. You would think that we would be presented with a gospel of the Lord ascending back to heaven to take His proper seat at the right of hand of the Father. Yet, we have this account of Him dying on the Cross, bruised, beaten and bloodied being scoffed at and mocked by those passing by and one of the criminals hanging by His side. This gospel account tells us much about what kind of a King our Lord Jesus Christ is and also that the cross is a source of stumbling for any. First, with Our Lord on the Cross we see Crucified Love. Our Lord shows us what it means to love completely selflessly, sacrificially even to the point of death. The Cross shows the humility of God, the wisdom of God which is often not recognized by the world. St. Paul wrote, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). He goes on to say, “…but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and the Greek’s foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1: 23-25). We see that in the crucifixion we have the first eclipse of God taking place. It says in the Lucan account of the crucifixion, “It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun” (Lk. 23:44). The creatures did not recognize their Creator in their midst even though He had by His life and deeds among them for three years shown them nothing but absolute love, goodness, compassion and mercy. He had performed many mighty signs and miracles to prove His divinity yet in the end most rejected Him.
It was however in this first “eclipse of God” that a new Age of Hope opened up for all creation as the head of Satan began to be crushed (Gen. 3:15; 1 Jn. 3:8)). On the Cross the power of Satan was defeated in the lives of all those who would by faith make Jesus Christ King of their lives. God was reconciling all things to Himself through the death of His Son on the Cross. It is into the Church God wishes to gather all peoples (Jew and Gentile) of every tribe, tongue and nation and make them one in Christ. The Church is the Lampstand (Rev. 1:2) called to show forth the light of Christ for the nations to see. God intends for His Church to be the sacrament of salvation where His mercy, forgiveness and healing can be found in her sacraments. Recently, the Lampstand has been obscured by the sins of some her own members but also by the constant attacks of Satan who wants to crucify the Lord’s Body (CCC #671; 675) once again to obscure the light and truth of the gospel which she proclaims to the world. As in the first eclipse of God (the Crucifixion) it looked very dark for a while before the glorious resurrection of our Lord on the third day. So to, in the current “eclipse of the sense of God” taking place in once Christian nations, spoken of by John Paul II and now Pope Benedict, its looks very dark but we are close to the dawn of a new age of hope and love prophesied by the ancient prophets (Is. 11: 6-9; Zech. 14: 6-10; Rev. 20:4).
Pope Benedict recently said, “And so the transformation of the world, the knowledge of the true God, the weakening of the forces that dominate the earth, is a process of suffering” (Pope Benedict XVI, talk at special synod on the Middle East, October 10, 2010). We seem to have forgotten in our day that God has always used suffering to purify and bring great fruit in the lives of those who are willing to ‘embrace the cross’ in their lives. We have forgotten that being a Christian is not a life of ease. Many today want a religion that has no cross. There are many out there but none of them have any power to forgive sins, bring about a transformation of heart and mind in people’s lives or do they offer any hope of eternal life. It is only Christianity, with the absolute unique claims of its founder, Jesus Christ, that offers true peace with God, true joy and true hope, but the only way to experience this resurrection life is through the cross. We who have been baptised were baptized into the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ so that means we must expect some suffering in our lives (1 Pt. 2:21; 4:12:14). Many today have fallen away from the practice of their Catholic Faith. G. K. Chesterton once said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Christianity offers true peace, joy, hope and eternal life but there is a cost and that is to deny oneself and follow Christ even when it means we suffer for His sake.
The gospel today also presents us with a King who identifies with His children when they suffer. The author of the book of Hebrews writes, “Therefore we have great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace to help in time of need” (Heb.4:14-16). This is the promise to all who will remain faithful to the Lord that he will provide abundant grace for us to take us through everything we may face in live – but we must seek and ask for it each day. My brother and sisters we live in very dark times in the world but this also means there is an unprecedented amount of grace available to those who will ask for it. This is why I have been emphasizing prayer these past 4-5 weeks. Prayer is one of the most important ways we receive God’s grace. There are two other important sources of God’s grace, the Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation. When approached with faith and in a state of grace (free of mortal sin) the Holy Eucharist is an infinite source of grace – it is the Lord Himself. If we come to Mass having been in communion with the Lord each day throughout the week, striving to please Him in our lives by our obedience to His will (commandments) receiving Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist is going to be the culmination of that communion with abundant graces that will be poured into our souls. These graces may not be perceptible to our senses but we will be transformed by them. Receiving these graces is not dependant on some feeling in our senses; receiving theses graces depends on faith and trusting God and His Word that is true and forever settled in heaven. Many people today are filled with fear and worry. Fear and worry will not accomplish anything in our lives. I heard recently two acronyms, one for fear and one for trust. Fear -false evidence appearing real and trust - true resolve under severe testing. Let us have faith and trust in God, His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, the other sacraments and His Word and receive the abundant graces the Lord has for us each day as we ask for them. On this Feast of Christ the King may we renew our allegiance to Christ our King and put Him who has shown His great love for us by laying His life down on the cross –crucified love.