Christ the King - Homily 1

Homily 1 - 2008 

The Gospel today commends those who act in response to the poverty and powerlessness of people in the community.  Though those who respond compassionately to others may not recognise the fact, Jesus takes their response personally: as long as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.

By its choice of this Gospel to mark the Feast of Christ as King, of Jesus the Messiah, the Church sees such behaviour as somehow an expression of our sharing in the kingly role of Jesus.  Kingship has to deal with the ordering of relationships in society: with social justice (or injustice).  Kingdoms were the general model of social organisation in Jesus’ day.  Democracies were not well known, and, in fact, there were none around when Jesus was alive.  So naturally he used the term Kingdom.

Jesus was concerned about how people interacted in society.  He was insistent on the need for radical change – that poverty, intense hardship, powerlessness and injustice be brought to an end.  According to his vision for the world, (which was simply God’s vision for the world – the Kingdom of God ), those presently hungry, suffering, powerless and oppressed would eventually find justice.  As he promised in the Beatitudes, the poor would enjoy the Kingdom, those who mourned would be comforted, the meek and powerless would repossess their land and those hungering for justice would have their fill.

But that the vision become reality, there was need for conversion.  Justice would become reality only as people prioritised and lived according to mercy, purity of heart and personal integrity, and genuinely worked for peace and order within society:  Blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the pace-makers.

Jesus’ kingship is sterile unless we work with him.  All of us are called to share in and to give shape to his kingship.  That call was made when we were baptised.  We were christened – made one with Christ, the Anointed One.  Like Jesus, we were anointed priests, prophets and kings.

In Jesus’ day, mercy, personal integrity and work for genuine peace were seen by those in power as subversive.  As we know so well, Jesus was eliminated precisely because the chief priests and the Roman governor saw his priorities and activities as dangerous.

Action for justice is not so dangerous these days in our neck of the woods – though it certainly is perilous in lots of other hot spots around our world.  We have much to be thankful for.  Yet our society is still far from measuring up to Jesus’ vision for society.  To make it ever more just is a constant task.  It is a difficult task, and often uncertain, and calls for real integrity and wisdom, and sometimes a thick skin.

I wish more Catholics, attuned to the vision of the common good and prepared to give their energies to its practical implementation, would show a greater interest in politics at all levels – local, state and federal.  Politics are important.  But they are not enough.  Education for justice, work for justice, education for peace, work for peace are simply part and parcel of the vocation to be Christian.  Blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peace-makers.

Perhaps we should face also the final beatitude: blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you….  since, unfortunately, that is often the response to those who work disinterestedly for the implementation of the Common Good, of the Kingdom of God.  Long live Christ the King!