In this beautiful homily for the Feast of Christ the King, Year B, Father Hanly talks about the legacy of our King, who reigns from a cross to let us know that it’s not power, it’s not money, it’s not success, none of these things, it is only one thing: give your life for others as Christ our King.
Readings for Mass
First Reading: Daniel 7:13-14
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 93:1, 1-2, 5
Second Reading: Revelation 1:5-8
Gospel: John 18:33-37
Recording of Homily
Transcript of Homily
(beginning missing) the people, the local people, the Israelites, had no power over life and death. But they did have power to condemn someone. So Jesus was brought before Pilot. It is in this context, that we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, the Son of God.
There’s an old story about the pre-French Revolution in France. There were two peasants working around the Cathedral of Notre Dame on a very special day. And the King’s coach came up, not by itself, with many horses and men and soldiers and important people. And they opened the door and the King came out in all his splendour. And he was going into the church, on this very special Feast Day, and as he walked along the red carpet, everyone before him knelt down and paid him homage.
And one peasant said to the other, a hard, high man, he said, “My dream is that one day everyone, everyone, will be treated as ordinary people, including kings.” And the other one was a sweet-faced little fellow and he piped up, he said, “My dream is quite different. You dream that everyone will be treated ordinary. I dream that everyone will be treated like kings.”
This is what we notice in the Gospels. The king does not look like a king. He is a prisoner. He has been condemned as a blasphemer and an enemy of the state, and he is about to undergo execution. This is a little bit less than ordinary, but the idea, of course, is that of the two dreams, it’s the dream of Jesus that he gives to us all, because he did not come to make us all ordinary. He came to make us all kings and queens in the Kingdom that he himself would establish.
The other thought that came to me preparing this little homily was about, in the Seventies, I was in Kwun Tong, and, as you know, Kwun Tong in the Seventies was a centre for refugees, as well as for factories, and it was a crumby, dirty little place, nothing like it is today. And Maryknoll had a parish there and I was coming out onto the street one day and I walked by this kindergarten.
And suddenly the doors opened and all these little kids from Kwun Tong came running out the doors going towards their parents, who were behind a fence to pick them up. And all the kids had their ordinary, crumby, little clothes on, and sneakers and what have you, but they were all wearing crowns, they had these beautifully made little crowns. Someone had found some golden paper and someone had found some stars to stick on it.
And I was overwhelmed, because there were about a hundred of them, and all of them rushing forward with crowns. And it dawned on me, I think I understood what the teacher was telling them, they were saying, “Look around at your ordinary life and what do you see? Nothing to cheer you up, but I tell you, you all have the dignity and honour of kings and queens.” And so she set them all up with their little crowns on their heads and they were playing in the yard.
I was very moved by it. And then I remembered Jesus, at this point, was the first time he admits that he is indeed a king.
Yesterday, we had baptisms. Or was it a few days ago? As you get older you forget what day it is. But yes, it was yesterday, Saturday. And there were two little babies, a little boy and a little girl, and they came to be baptised. And, as you know, baptism is new life. This is the time where you pour the water and at the end of pouring the water, the following acclamation is said. These are two little harmless babies, two little babies who are not more than a couple of months old, and the acclamation is said to them.
“Here is the fountain of life, water made holy by the sufferings of Christ, washing clean all the world. You who are washed in this water are given the Kingdom of Heaven.”
And then the very next thing that a priest does is, he, after the babies have been baptised, one cried and one didn’t, and he takes sacred oil, the sacred chrism, the oil of anointing.
You know, in England, when Queen Elizabeth was anointed, they used the same oil, the sacred chrism. And they bring the sacred chrism out and the Archbishop of Canterbury puts it on her head and says to her, “You are a Queen and your kingdom is all of the places that you rule over.” And then, that was the good news, you see, the bad news was, “and you are assigned the responsibility of leading them, and taking care of them, and worrying about them.” And she has done this. Really Queen Elizabeth, to this present day, has been a very faithful queen.
Anyhow, here’s the prayer now that the priest says over these two babies, these are just babies:
“God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, my little children, has freed you from all sin, given you a new birth through water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the sacred oil, the chrism of healing and salvation. And just as Christ was anointed a priest, a prophet and a king, so may you live always sharing these gifts, as a member of his own body, sharing with him everlasting life.”
When we say the Church is very careful about life and respect for life and respect for people, we’re talking in the way that Jesus not only talks but looked upon people. Because, as you know, the blind man from last week, he was in that crowd, and when he saw what was happening to Jesus he must have kept saying to himself again and again, “Can this be our Messiah? Can this be our king?” But, because he had great faith, he believed, and he knew that the man who opened his eyes has now opened them to another world, a real world.
It is the world that God created. And God created men with dignity and purpose. He created us with a kingly responsibility. For we were to take the very life of God, because the life of God floods through us. Out of the darkness of the old comes the light of the new. And we are indeed made one with the Saviour, one in human flesh, but one in his divinity.
And from this time on, no one is to look at anyone, not only Catholics or Christians who believe, but anyone in the world, with any less eyes than the eyes of the little blind man who could see. These are the children of God, these deserve respect, these deserve honour. Dignity means “worthy of honour, worthy of respect, esteem, worthy of laying your life down for.” This is the precious gift of God Himself.
And on the Feast of Christ the King, we go to Jesus before Pilate. And Pilate says to him, “Are you a king?” And he says, “Yes, I am. This is why I was born and this is what I have come to give. And anyone who believes in me will follow the truth.”
And Pilate says, “What is the truth?” in a kind of cynicism that would be very popular even in our own time. And Jesus, hearing the question, “What is the truth?” says nothing. And why does he say nothing? Because he said it all before to his disciples: “If you come and follow me, I am the way, I am the truth and I am the life.”
And that is why we gather together today. Because we know that, with all the dignity of kingship, he gave it up to be humiliated. And, in the silence, Pilate leads him out and tells them to scourge him, and the sacrifice begins. First they scourge him. Then they put a crown of thorns on his head and a purple garment to cover his slashed back with the blood flowing through. And after they had made him their king, they gave him his throne. And the throne was the cross. And he went up the hill and died.
And this is the horror to all the people who were there. The Bible says, “Cursed be the man who hangs upon a cross,” and yet this is the enthronement of our Saviour, our Redeemer. And then it is that his Father in heaven, who must have been weeping tears, because He was not allowed to bury His only Son as we in this world are. And it was the sign of the love of God, “I have given them My Son,” and they have done this to him. But his final words are, “Forgive them Father. They know not what they are doing.” And he offers himself in total and complete love for all of us.
And that is why we are sacred. Not because we declare it or because you are born a man or a woman. It is because God Himself, His only Son, has brought us to a new level of understanding. And the little blind man from Jericho, hopping about, must have rejoiced on that great Easter day when he saw the full story.
And the full story was all this took place to teach us one lesson: that every little infant born in this world is a child of God, an heir of heaven, worthy of respect. And the people like us, who represent the Kingdom of God, must see to it, because Jesus says, “Now you must go out and take care of the poor and the needy and those who are in trouble, that they might know their true value, their true dignity as the children of God.”
And that is why today is such a happy feast for us all, because it is God saying to us, “I give you the eyes of the blind man and the gift of the blind man to see the world as I see it and as My Son saw it.”
And know that there is only one action demanded of all of you. It is that you must live and work like the children of the Kingdom. And you are to bring peace because his Kingdom is peace, and joy because his kingdom is joy, and fairness and justice because his is a just and fair kingdom. Never forget that the only way you can do it is by self-sacrificing love and this is what changes the world.
It is truly Christ our King, our King who reigns from a cross to let us know that it’s not power, it’s not money, it’s not success, none of these things. It is only one thing. Give your life for others as Christ our King.
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This homily was delivered on 22nd November 2009.
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