Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17, 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28, Mt. 25:31-46
Homily starter anecdote: King of kings and Lord of lords. Listed in any history book among the greatest leaders that the world has ever known would be the name, Augustus Caesar. It was Augustus Caesar who fixed the limits of the Roman Empire. It was during his reign that the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome that lasted for over 200 years, was initiated. It was Augustus who ordered the building of roads linking the colonies of the great Empire and allowing rapid access to subordinate governments. It was he who gave Rome its constitution, creating the office of Emperor and investing in that office unlimited power, though he never used the title Emperor himself. The age of Augustus was a bright spot in literature and the arts. It was the era that gave the world Virgil, and the great historians. Augustus was truly a great ruler. Is it not ironic, then, that 2000 years after the reign of Augustus Caesar, he is mainly remembered because every year at Christmas time, we read these timeless words: "In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed" (Luke 2:1) Among those to be taxed, of course, were Mary and Joseph from Nazareth. Augustus Caesar would truly be shocked to realize that during his reign was born One who was far greater than he. He was the One Who had been anointed King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It was a minor official in the Roman Empire, Pontius Pilate, who first asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" (John 18:33). Jesus obviously convinced him that he was. We often see engraved on crosses the letters INRI. They stand for Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews. St. Teresa of Avila, the 16th century Carmelite reformer, always referred to Jesus as "His Majesty," and so He is. After 2000 years, His stature has not diminished. ( http://stjohngrandbay.org/wt/client/v2/story/WT_Story.cfm?SecKey=151)
Introduction: It was Pope Pius XI who brought the Feast of Christ the King into the liturgy in 1925 to bring Christ, his rule and Christian values back into lives of Christians, into society and into politics. The Feast was also a reminder to the totalitarian governments of Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin that Jesus Christ is the only Sovereign King. Although Emperors and Kings now exist mostly in history books, we still honor Christ as the King of the Universe by enthroning him in our hearts and allowing him to take control of our lives. This feast challenges us to see Christ the King in everyone, especially those whom our society considers the least important, and to treat each person with love, mercy and compassion as Jesus did.
Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading from Ezekiel introduces God as a Shepherd reminding us of Christ’s claim that he is the good-shepherd-king, leading, feeding and protecting his sheep. In the second reading, St. Paul presents Christ as the all-powerful ruler-king who raises the dead and to whom every form of power and authority must eventually give way. Today’s Gospel describes Christ the King coming in his Heavenly glory to judge us, based on how we have shared our love and blessings with others through genuine acts of charity in our lives. Jesus is present to us now, not only as our good shepherd leading, feeding and healing his sheep, but also as dwelling in those for whom we care. In the parable of the separation of the sheep from the goats at the Last Judgment, every person to whom we give ourselves, "whether hungry, thirsty or a stranger, naked, sick or in prison," is revealed to us as having been the risen Jesus. Our reward or punishment depends on how we have recognized and treated this risen Jesus in the needy.
The First reading (Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15:17) explained: The prophet Ezekiel was consoling the Jews exiled in Babylonia, explaining that their exile had been caused by infidelity and disloyalty to God on the part of their Kings and leaders. In this passage, Ezekiel prophesied that God would eliminate the middle-men, the unfaithful shepherds of His People of Israel, and would Himself become Israel’s Shepherd leading, feeding, healing and protecting His sheep. Though the prophet originally was talking about a specific point in Israel’s history in which Yahweh would appear to shepherd the Chosen People, Jesus' disciples believed that the risen Jesus was with the early Christians, fulfilling Ezekiel’s prophecy of God, the Good Shepherd, rescuing, pasturing, seeking, bringing back, and healing his sheep. No longer limited to His earthly body, the risen Jesus continues his loving ministry through such saving actions as we perform them in Him and with His power. Since King David had originally been a shepherd and, since the coming Messiah was widely believed to be a descendant of David, there was already an association of shepherd images with the Messiah.
The Second Reading (1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28) explained: In his letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul answered the question: "If Jesus is alive among us by his resurrection, how does he affect our lives?" Many of the Corinthians believed in Plato’s doctrine that human beings were originally pure spirits or souls who lived in the presence of God. They sinned and as punishment they had to carry a human body which they shed at death and thus were liberated to return to their state of happiness. So those Corinthians could not understand how Jesus had been raised with his glorified body. Paul explained to the Corinthians that as God the Father had raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus too would raise those who believed in him. In other words, the first mission of the risen Christ as King is to give us eternal life by raising us from death, thus undoing the primary consequence of the first Adam’s sin. The final mission of Christ the King is to subject all cosmic powers to himself, and then to God his Father.
Gospel Exegesis: Kingship of Jesus the Messiah in Old Testament. In most of the Messianic prophecies given in the Old Testament books of Samuel, Micah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, Christ the Messiah is represented as a King. Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the Prophet Micah announced His coming as King. "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrata, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days" (Micah 5:1). Daniel presents "one coming like a son of man ... to him was given dominion and glory and kingship that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed" (Daniel 7: 13-14).
Kingship of Jesus in New Testament. The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the long-awaited king of the Jews. In the Annunciation, recorded in Lk.1:32-33, 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.” The Magi from the Far East came to Jerusalem and asked the question: (Mt 2:2) “Where is the baby born to be the King of the Jews? We saw his star… and we have come to worship him.” During the royal reception given to Jesus on Palm Sunday, the Jews shouted: (Lk 19:38) “Blessed is the King, who comes in the name of the Lord.” When Pilate asked the question: (Jn 18:33) “Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus, in the course of their conversation, made his assertion, “You say that I am a King. For this was I born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the Truth. Everyone who belongs to the Truth listens to My Voice” (John 18:37). That Truth, as we know, is that He is God and Sovereign King of all creation. Today’s Gospel tells us that the board hung over Jesus’ head on the cross read: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews,” (Lk 23:36; see also, Mt 27:37; Mk 15:26; John 19:19-20), and that, to the repentant thief on the cross who made the request: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” Jesus promised Paradise with Him that very day. (Luke 19:39-43). Before His Ascension into Heaven, the Risen Jesus declared: (Mt. 28:18) “I have been given all authority in Heaven and on earth.”
A unique King with a unique Kingdom: Jesus Christ still lives as King, in thousands of human hearts all over the world. The cross is his throne and the Sermon on the Mount is his rule of law. His citizens need obey only one law: “Love others as I have loved you" (John 15:12). His love is selfless, sacrificial, kind, compassionate, forgiving and unconditional. That is why the preface in today’s Mass describes Jesus’ Kingdom as "a Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love and peace." He is a King with a saving and liberating mission: to free mankind from all types of bondage so that we may live peacefully and happily on earth and inherit Eternal Life in Heaven. His rule consists in seeking the lost, offering salvation to those who call out to him and making friends of enemies.
The Kingdom of God is the central teaching of Jesus throughout the Gospels. The word Kingdom appears more than any other word throughout the four Gospels. Jesus begins His public ministry by preaching the Kingdom. "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:14). In Christ's Kingdom, “we are all a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Pt 2:9; see also Ex 19:6; Is 61:6). According to the teachings of the New Testament, the “Kingdom of God” is a three-dimensional reality: the life of grace within every individual who does the will of God, the Church here on earth, and Eternal Life in Heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that the Church is the Kingdom of Christ already present in mystery. It is the mission of the Church to proclaim and establish the Kingdom of Christ in human souls. This mission takes place between the first coming and the second coming of Christ. The Church helps us to establish Christ’s Kingdom in our hearts, thus allowing us to participate in God's inner life. We are elevated and transformed through sanctifying grace. This supernatural life of grace comes to fulfillment in the eternal life of Heaven (CCC #758-780).
Life messages: 1) We need to surrender our lives to Christ’s rule: Since Christ, our King, lives in our hearts with the Holy Spirit and His Heavenly Father and fills our souls with His grace, we need to learn to live in His Holy Presence, doing His will by sharing His forgiving love with others around us. We need to be constantly aware of His Presence in the Bible, in the Sacraments and in the worshipping community.
2) We need to fight against the enemies of Christ’s Kingdom: Terrorism has affected the entire world, including Christ’s kingdom on earth. These terrorists are people who slaughter the unborn; engage in a frontal attack on the modern family through provocative television shows, movies, music and pornography; eradicate any recognition of God from public display and public schools; they include those priests and the religious who abuse children. Hence, Jesus, the King, needs convinced apostles prepared and ready to fight against these enemies, first by prayer, then by accepting willingly the sufferings that come our way and offering them to God with Jesus, our King, in reparation for our sins and the sins of the world, and finally by living lives of loving humble service, using our gifts generously for all. The battlefield is the home, the school, the place of employment, the neighborhood, and the parish. These provide new and exciting challenges, new opportunities for us to do, ourselves, what is right and to live out the Truth of Jesus Christ our King, neither compromising with sin nor passing judgment on the motives or guilt of any of our brothers and sisters, but loving and praying for all of us. To ensure that Jesus is always the King of our hearts, we need to make a great commitment to Him and to back that commitment with the necessary sacrifices, conviction, hard work and daily, serious prayer.
3) We need to use what authority we have been given to pass on Jesus’ message. This feast is an invitation to all those who have power or authority in the government, public offices, educational institutions and in the family to use it for Jesus. Are we using our God-given authority so as to serve others with love and compassion as Jesus did? Are we using it to build a more just society rather than to boost our own egos? Are parents using their God-given authority to train their children in Christian ideals and committed Christian living?
4) We need to make Christ the King of our Personal, Familial Social and Cultural life: Personal: By allowing Him to be King and center of our heart through prayer, receiving the Sacraments and freely entering a personal relationship with Him; Familial: By creating a proper rule and servant-leadership in the family – let us have a "king," a "queen," "prince" and "princesses" in our home; Social: By not divorcing ourselves from the state, from legislation and from affecting the social order; and Cultural: By bringing Christ and His Beauty and Radiance into the living traditions of our community. (Fr. Lombardi).
Conclusion: The Solemnity of Christ the King is not just the conclusion of the Church year. It is also a summary of our lives as Christians. On this great Feast, let us resolve to give Christ the central place in our lives and to obey His commandment of love by sharing our blessings with all his needy children. Let us conclude the Church year by asking the Lord to help us serve the King of Kings as He presents Himself in those reaching out to us. "To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His Blood and made us a Kingdom, priests for His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (Revelation 1:5b-6). Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat! Christ conquers! Christ rules! Christ reigns! (Fr. Antony Kadavil)