Christ the King - Homily 2

Homily 2 - 2011

I have so many questions with this Gospel passage.  For a start, it immediately puts me on the defensive.  I feel vulnerable.  A second reaction, after a bit of defensive thinking, is to feel confused.  Where do I fit?  Perhaps, I’m neither a sheep nor a goat but a bit of each.  When the Son of Man comes, what will be my fate?  A third problem… I feel uneasy at the way some people seem to read the passage – something like: "When I come across people I don’t like, I try to see Jesus in them, and to love Jesus through them." To me, that could be like using people as a means to loving Jesus – by–passing the persons, not loving them, but loving Jesus.

What did Jesus himself do?  Did he by-pass persons, looking as though he loved them, but all the while really loving his Father, and virtually ignoring them as the persons they were?  I think that Jesus loved people for themselves, not as a means to anything.  I certainly hope that this is how he loves me - loves me as I am, the unique person I am – not using me to look good, or to please his Father.

Having said all this, I do have my own “take” on the story.  Whatever we do to the least of his brothers and sisters is done to Jesus in much the same way as, when I warmly reach out to a child, mum and dad can’t help but beam inside.  What I do to the child, I do to them – because they deeply love the child and, through their love, identify with their child.

But there is also something more: Since Jesus’ resurrection, something else has happened – happened not just to him but also to us.  We share in that risen humanity of Jesus.  Together, we are, as St Paul, puts it, the Body of Christ.  So, what we do to each other somehow reverberates through the cosmos.

As I reflect further, I see in the behaviours that Jesus listed, a sort of description of his own conduct.  He reached out consistently to people in need - people on the margins, excluded, people oppressed and exploited, people who were powerless.  He had a profound and spontaneous compassion, and a genuine sense of solidarity, particularly with those on the underside of society.  He connected with them.  He connected with them, as the messed-up, often unlikeable, unique, precious persons they were.

Personally, I don’t have much confidence in moralistic exhortations – even though St Matthew specialises in them.  They lack power.  For example, I strongly disagree with our country’s treatment of asylum seekers, but I have, in fact, done very little to change the situation.  Why don’t I do more?  Closer to home, I wish I were not so selective in my willingness to connect with others, especially those I disagree with, or who don’t like me.  I would love to be consistently open to whoever comes into my orbit.  But if I haven’t made it after 78 years, what chance have I got?  Will-power has got me only so far: I’m part-sheep, part-goat.

As I see it, my only hope is God himself.  God needs to empower me, to change me.  I believe that God does that by loving me.  My problem is to accept, ever more fully, God’s love with all its liberating power.  I presume I have to be patient.  Perhaps there are a lot of other things that God wants to do first with me.  All I can do, it seems to me, is wait, and hope, and relax, and do my best to keep open [however I might manage that].

In the meantime, here we all are at Mass – here, not because we’re worthy but because we’re not.  We want Jesus to get hold of us – shake us if necessary, embrace us if necessary, somehow to transform us in his image.  And I think that that is what he wants to do, what he is in the process of doing.  … Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God!