Homilies of a Jesuit: Christ the King Year B

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Christ the King Year B

In a few weeks’ time, we will celebrate Christmas. Personally, Christmas, like Easter, does not excite me. They represent more work! But, apart from that, you may be wondering why both Christmas and Easter do not excite me. In a sense both are “matter of fact” type of celebrations. Christmas celebrates the fact that the 2nd person of the Trinity was born of the Virgin Mary. Easter celebrates the fact that Christ suffered, died and rose in order that we might have life. Christ’s birth, passion, death and resurrection are facts for eternal life. We rejoice at Christmas and Easter because of the salvation brought about by Christ.

Today, I am excited so much so that I told Fr AT to take this weekend off because I can’t seem to get enough of the Last Sunday of the year. Why? Luke 24 provides a glimpse of this excitement. In that chapter we find the post-resurrection experience of the 2 disciples on the Road to Emmaus. After their encounter with Christ one of them said: “Did not our hearts burnt within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the Scripture to us”.

There is a burning in the heart because we are celebrating not just a fact but an ideal of who we can be. I am happy with the fact that we have been saved but I am even more excited by the possibility of who we can be. Christ the King is an invitation as well as the reason for our being here. A part of the preface for the solemnity (that is, the part of the anaphora between the “Introductory Dialogue of the Eucharistic Prayer” and the Acclamation: the Sanctus) shows how it is both an invitation and a reason for our presence here.

You anointed Jesus Christ, your only Son, with the oil of gladness, as the eternal priest and universal king. As priest, he offered His life on the altar of the cross and redeemed the human race by this one perfect sacrifice of peace. As King He claims dominion over all creation, that He may present to you, His almighty Father, an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.

Now, together with the fact of Christmas and Easter, the preface presents a majestic sweep of the Christian vision—an ideal that our hearts can burn with. We have, on the one hand, Christmas and Easter proclaiming the fact that Christ has triumphed over Death. No longer can death hold us captives forever. The birth, passion, death and resurrection of Christ assure us that in our contention with Death, His victory will be ours. Eternal life, lost by man’s disobedience, has now been restored by Christ Himself. On the other hand, this grand vision of Christ as King puts into perspective the struggles that we encounter and will continue to encounter. We struggle because creation is groaning; creation is reaching out for the fullness of redemption. The perspective that creation is groaning helps us answer some fundamental questions arising from the experience of evil: the sufferings of illnesses, the destruction of natural calamities and the evils of injustice etc. We often ask the question, why is God so good and yet He allows such suffering? Suffering is part of creation’s groaning and yearning for the fullness of Christ’s salvation. Christ victory puts us back on track towards God and our so-called suffering here on earth is part of that return to God. A helpful analogy is that the war is over but we still have pockets of resistance to clear. We are not called Church Militant for nothing. We are Church Militant because we are engaged in the cleaning up process. In this engagement, we struggle but we know that we will never be defeated as we are engaged in the furthering of the kingdom which Christ has come to establish. The heart aching for His kingdom prompts each and every one of us to engage in or be part of His enterprise not as some faraway project set in the future but as part of the present because the future is in fact now. The future begins now.

The only way to be converted to this endeavour is through the eyes of love. The Gospel presents us with an image of Christ which makes possible this conversion. He stands powerless before the power of all powers. If you think about it, this image of a powerless Christ runs counter to the rank we ascribe to Him: A King. And yet, this powerless Christ is the very foundation of the Kingdom that He has come to establish. Thankfully, an image presented by St Ignatius may help. He says, “Consider Christ our Lord, standing in a lowly place in a great plain about the region of Jerusalem, His appearance beautiful and attractive. Consider how the Lord of all the world [who is not high and mighty but] chooses so many persons, apostles, disciples etc and sends them throughout the whole world to spread His sacred doctrine among all men, no matter what their state or condition”. This image of St Ignatius is found here in our stained glass. There you will find the majestic King humble in His service. He looks after the lambs and invites us to share in that mission of His.

I can’t tell you how to be excited. All I can say is this: my baptism is meaningless; so too my confirmation. My ordination is useless and so too the Eucharist I am celebrating. All these sacraments I have received are useless unless I am ready and I desire with my heart to be at the service of Christ my King in any way He sees fit for His kingdom. You may say the same for you: Your baptism is meaningless; so too your confirmation. Your marriage is useless and so too the Mass you are attending unless you too offer yourself simply because the very purpose of one’s existence is so that every breath of one’s being is directed to that enterprise of Christ the King that at the end of time, “He claims dominion over all creation, that He may present to His almighty Father, an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace”.

We all want excitement or we may crave the adrenalin rush. But, that excitement gives us a temporary high. The only “high”, the only genuine “high” worth living for is to be in the service of Christ the King [not adrenalin] because in Him, nothing “bad” is ever definitive—a bad job, a broken relationship, an unjust situation... the list can go on. A young doctor who is in compulsory public service came up to me to say yesterday: “I can see now that no matter how ‘crappy’ my job is, it is still possible to be part of Christ’s Kingdom”... Perhaps you understand why we can be excited because in Christ who is King, everything, no matter how bad, is pregnant with the possibilities of the Kingdom to come. It is possible if you say yes. The answer is with you.