"Most High, glorious God, cast Your Light into the darkness of my heart, and grant me a right faith, certain hope and perfect charity, sense and understanding, Lord, so that I may know and do Your holy and true command."
- St. Francis of Assisi: Prayer before the Crucifix
Friday, November 23, 2012
Lord, you've done it again!
HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST THE KING, November 25, 2012: . Click here to listen to a Podcast of this homily: Christ the King
A woman went on a parish pilgrimage to the Holy Land and one
of the places they visited was the village of Cana where Jesus performed His
first miracle changing water into wine.
At the gift shop there, they sell a fine vintage of wine which they
claim will be the best you’ve ever tasted.
The woman bought several bottles to bring home as gifts for family and
friends. At the end of the pilgrimage,
she and her group were at the airport just about to head through security when
the woman realized that she forgot to put the bottles in her checked luggage
and instead had them in her carry-on.
Thinking quickly, she took out a marker and labeled each of the bottles
“Water.” When she got to the security
officer, he opened her bag, looked at the bottles and said, “What are
these?” She calmly responded, “They are
just water.” The officer looked
suspiciously and said, “Well, we’re going to have to open one to check.” He opened the bottle and poured some out and
of course it was the fine vintage from Cana.
“Ma’am,” he said. “This isn’t water.
It is wine.” Without missing a
beat, the woman threw her arms in the air and cried out, “Hallelujah, Lord,
you’ve done it again!” after which the officer waived her through.
might be hard to believe, but today we celebrate the final Sunday of the Church
year. Like the punch line in our joke –
the Lord has done it again. We have, once
again, made our yearly pilgrimage of faith through the birth, death,
resurrection, teachings and miracles of Jesus and now we come today to the last
act. And as you might expect, as we
again prepare to go back to the beginning of this great story, we end on a high
note. Effective endings tend to be climactic.
Speeches often end with a ringing acclamation; songs try to end on an up
note; operas build up laboriously to a grand finale. And, it is for this reason, presumably, that
the Feast of Christ the King was chosen for this final Sunday of our Church
So, we liturgically ascend to the Throne
where Christ reigns as King today. But,
this is a notion that might have trouble getting traction for us because in our
democratic society, the notion of royalty or of kingship doesn’t have much
appeal. As Americans, we honor the voice of the people above that of the Divine
Right of Kings. If this is the case,
Pontius Pilate, I think, felt the same way.
As we hear in our Gospel today, he had no sympathy for the concept of
Christ’s kingship either. Even though he was an imperialist, Pilate viewed the
claims of Christ’s kingship with suspicion.
If Christ were claiming to be a king in a political sense, then he could
represent a threat to Pilate’s own position and the empire he was there to defend.
Notice that the question uppermost in his mind was not “Are you the Messiah of
the Jews?” but “Are you the king of the Jews?”
If the answer was a political one, then the Roman Empire would have a
subversive on its hands and Pilate and Jesus would find themselves on a
The answer that Jesus gives is a relief
to Pilate. He says, “My kingdom does not
belong to this world.” This is a truly
shocking statement from Jesus.
Unfortunately, it is one that we have heard so many times that it may
have lost its punch. Jesus tells Pilate
that His Kingdom is not made up of kings and queens, of armies and wars, of
territories and conquest. His Kingdom is
made up of something entirely different – it is made up of the Truth. It is made up of something that can’t be won
or purchased or conquered. And His kingship cannot be stripped away even as He
is stripped and beaten because He is the very Truth of that Kingdom. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” He
said. “No one can come to the Father except through me.” Christ is saying to
Pilate and to us, “I am the Truth from God – I am God’s revelation of Himself.
I am God’s Word. God is speaking to the
world through me.”
This must have been an amazing thing for
Pilate to hear; and it should be something amazing for us to hear as well. St.
John spelled out the reality of this in the prologue to his Gospel, “In the
beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God…The Word
became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory that He has
from the Father as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
What Jesus had to say to Pilate doesn’t
end with His statement. In fact, it ends
with a challenge when He said, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my
voice.” Would Pilate listen? Do we? As
far as we know, Pilate did not choose to accept the invitation of Christ to
become one of God’s children. What he did at the end of the day, instead of
listening to Christ, to the Truth, was to wash his hands of Him. We, too, can
be tempted to wash our hands of what Christ asks of us. But, today’s feast reminds us that our allegiance
belongs to Christ our King; that we are all called to belong to the Truth and
to listen to His voice. This is how Christ is meant to be our King – ruling our
hearts and our lives.
We know there are many voices in our
modern world competing for our allegiance – the call to unbridled materialism
and consumerism; the call to a secular self-sufficiency that convinces us we
can do it all on our own with no need for God; the daily distracting calls to
the trivial and the transitory. There is no shortage of calls. But, in the
midst of it all, Christ is calling too. He is telling us emphatically about the
uniqueness of His authority and the reliability of His claim to be the very incarnation
of God’s Truth. He is calling us to the counter-cultural
truth that we are meant to love radically – both our neighbors and even our
enemies; that we are meant to reach out to the needy, the homeless, the addict,
those on the margins. He is calling us
to transform our broken world into His Kingdom of love and peace and holiness.
As our Church year ends on this high
note, let us raise a cheer for Christ our King, let us abandon all other false
kings that demand our loyalty; let us listen to the voice of the One who saves
us and let us dwell in His abiding and unchanging Truth.
“Everyone who belongs to the truth,
listens to my voice.”