This is the first homily in our series of homilies by Father Hanly, and what better way to start our journey with Father than with a homily for the Feast of Christ the King, Year A, which looks at the difference between the kings of the world and Christ our King.
Readings for Mass
First Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 23:1-2, 2-3, 5, 6
Second Reading: First Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
Recording of Homily
Transcript of Homily
I suppose that kings are a little bit out of date, but many of us who have grown up in recent times remember, especially as a child, the tales of the kings, and King Arthur and all these wonderful people.
Today, kings are merely a figurehead. A sign of a national loyalty, a reminder of history, but they serve a different purpose today.
So when we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, we’re celebrating the kings of the olden days.
Kings at that time were given ultimate sovereignty, ultimate authority over people. What they said went. And if the fate of a man in front of a king was to beg for life over death, so great was their strength and power — and power. To be a king was to be powerful.
The Jewish people asked Samuel, the last of the judges, to ask God if they could have a king like all the other kings around them. They really wanted to have a king. And Samuel went off to God and he asked God. And God was a little disappointed in that, because He thought that they didn’t need a king as long as He was there.
And so he said, a bit petulantly, “You can have your king. But remember this, and I’m warning you, that the purpose of kings is to raise young men, to take your young men away from you, and bring them into battle and war, and send them back to bury them. And it is kings who will tax you so they can build strong cities and strong walls and armaments, things of war as well.”
But God must have known that He created them free. And He had to respect their choice. Because their choice was to have a king, He allowed them to have a king.
So it was that Samuel, the last of the judges, anointed King Saul as the first king of Israel.
Well they had about 20 kings in their history and it turned out just as God had said. None of them were worth anything. Perhaps David was one. And so they looked upon David as the fabled king, the King Arthur of their people, the one who was fair and just. And God had promised David that out of his line, He would send a king. And the Messiah would be born from the line of David.
But for the rest of them, they did just as God had warned them. They had spent their money and time and _____ on warfare. And they ended up in Babylon as prisoners, their freedom taken from them, their young __ all dead in the terrible wars of destruction. And they thought that they had lost everything.
Then the prophet Ezekiel, with the anger of God in his voice, spoke for God in the first reading. And instead of abandoning his people, he said to them:
Tell my people:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.
As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD,
I will judge between one sheep and another,
between rams and goats.
This is the Word of the Lord.
And so the Israelites expected a shepherd. And He came. The shepherd, the long announced one who was prayed for through the centuries. The shepherd was Jesus and He said, “I am the good shepherd. And I have come from the Father”.
And how did He come? How did He come to take possession of his kingdom? How did He become the ultimate authority with power over nations?
Certainly not the way they expected.
For He was born in a poor little village, Bethlehem. He was born in a stable made only for animals’ shelter. He lived simply. He lived purely. He lived graciously, as He went among His people. And they hardly knew that the Messiah was with them. That the Messiah had finally arrived.
They did not recognize Him because they were looking for a king of power and strength; who would take vengeance on those who had _______. They didn’t expect a man who would take as His throne a cross. And take as His golden crown, a crown of thorns. And who would be meek and humble. And to the very end give every last drop of His own blood, that they might find that they had finally, finally, come upon the true King.
It seems like a great contradiction. And even to this day, if you were to say that we must adopt Jesus as a king, we would say, “Well, maybe. But it’s also good to have armies and soldiers and men willing once again to die for us, that we might be free, and that we might be safe, and that we might etc etc.”
And yet on the Feast of Christ the King, we celebrate something that is even harder for us, even more difficult for us to understand than seeing Jesus on the cross. Because we say what is the power? Where is the conviction? Where is the stability that our kings would offer us so the Israelites would be for ages and ages.
And God will say to them, “The only authority that I have created, the only worthwhile authority in the lands of the peoples and the nations that are mine, is the authority of love.
And the only way to express love is by giving and not taking. It is by becoming as Jesus was: strong and firm, wonderful, in the sense that He was filled with the wonder of God Himself.
But at the same time He knew that the lesson had to be learned by everyone before the realization of what kingship means. For there is no authority outside love, and there could be no love without authority.
And so today as we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, we are called to work with this King. And this King is the one who dies on the cross, rises from the dead, is with His people.
And what then is expected of us?
I would like to close this with a message from Mother Teresa. And it tells us what real authority is. And what we, as followers of Jesus, should follow in the authority of love. What we ourselves should become if we are forever to touch the kingdom of God. Because God is love, and unless we learn to love as Jesus loves, we will never touch God.
Here is what Mother Teresa says:
“Many today are starving for ordinary bread.
But there is another kind of hunger –
the hunger to be wanted, the hunger to be loved, the hunger to be recognised.
Nakedness too is not just the want of clothes,
but also about loss of dignity, purity, and self-respect.
And homelessness is not just want of a house;
there is the homelessness of being rejected,
of being unwanted in a throwaway society.
The biggest disease in the world today
is the feeling of being unwanted and uncared for.
The greatest evil in the world is lack of love,
the terrible indifference towards one’s neighbour.”’
Lord, warm our cold hearts with your grace,
so that we your disciples may produce the fruits of love
as you have taught us and with this love we shall overcome the world.”
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This homily was delivered on 23rd November 2008.
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