Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 26, 2017
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
There seems to be some basic human instinct that makes each of us
long for a savior,
someone to save us from the troubles and hardships of life.
We see it throughout history.
For example, in ancient societies
peoples looked to their king, or the birth of a new prince,
as the hope for the well-being of the entire nation.
And we see it in modern American history as well:
every election, especially presidential elections,
has a certain tinge of this.
No matter who our candidate is,
there’s always an exaggeration of his qualifications,
and a downplaying of his faults,
in the hope he will bring a better life.
People seem to primordially seek a messiah.
But there is no earthly Messiah.
In the end, all fall radically short
We see this particularly in Judeo-Christian history.
3000 years ago, the people of Israel, were ruled by 12 “judges,”
but demanded that God give them an earthly king.
God warned them what would happen:
any worldly king would wind up disappointing
and even oppressing them.
Still, they persisted, and God gave them King Saul
—who wound up disappointing and oppressing them.
As did every single earthly king and governor, to a greater or lesser extent,
who ruled over Israel for the next 1000 years.
Still, Israel clung to the hope that a great Messiah-King
would come to take away all their worldly problems.
The thing is, when the true Messiah-King finally did come, He told them,
much to their dismay: “my kingdom is not of this world.”
He did not come to free us from the oppression of unjust worldly kings,
or establish a perfect earthly government,
but to save us from the most basic and worst kind of oppression:
the oppression of sin and it’s terrible consequences.
And make no mistake, sin is the great oppressor of mankind
—the sins of others, the sins the devil tempts us towards,
and our own personal sins and temptations to sins.
Remember what St. Paul writes:
“I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.
…. making me captive to the law of sin.”
Think how sin takes charge of so much in your lives,
so that no matter how hard you try you wind up doing
“the evil [you] do not want.”
you begin by simply wanting to earn a decent living to support your family,
and you wind up trapped in your greed and envy,
dedicated not to your family but keeping up with the family next door.
Or maybe you really want to be a kind and helpful son or daughter,
but you wind up constantly fighting with your parents.
Sin—you don’t want to do it, but like a prison you just can’t seem to get out.
But you can get out!
That’s what Christ the King came to vanquish,
and the purpose of His kingdom.
Not a kingdom of the world, but a kingdom in the world,
in which we are free from sin—freed by His grace and by His truth.
To modern Americans, living in a democratic-republic,
this seems somewhat ironic: a king who gives true freedom.
After all, we fought a war 240 years ago to free us from the tyranny of kings.
But this king is different from all earthly kings
—and all presidents, prime ministers, or governors.
This is a king who comes to us first and foremost as a servant,
as He says:
“the Son of man came not to be served but to serve.”
And His greatest service to us is to give a share of His own kingship.
In our Baptism He gave us a share in His own life
—we were grafted, as it were, onto His own body,
and so share in everything He has:
in His one Sonship to the Father,
in His power or grace,
in His eternal life,
…and in His kingship.
And with the power of His kingship in us, His grace,
we are no longer slaves of sin or oppressed by the devil.
We are truly free, not to do whatever we feel like,
but to become who were created to be in the beginning:
creatures created in the image of Christ the King,
to freely serve and to love God and our neighbor.
So as St. Paul says:
“you were called to freedom, …
only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh,
but through love be servants of one another.”
Imagine if we would truly accept this freedom.
If we were truly free from greed, avarice, lust, pride, hate, sloth, and gluttony.
If we were truly free from selfishness,
and selflessly lived like servants, like Christ the King.
Imagine for a moment how great life would be
if the whole world accepted this freedom.
But now remember how life usually is
—as men continue to embrace slavery to sin.
And so, in today’s Gospel Christ reminds us that when
“he comes in his glory, …all the nations will be assembled before him.”
And He will say to those who have accepted His gift
of freedom and lived as true servants:
“Come,…Inherit the kingdom …
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
…thirsty and you gave me drink….”
But He will say to those who rejected his Kingship,
and freely chose to remain slaves of selfishness:
“Depart from me…into the eternal fire prepared for the devil
….For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
…thirsty and you gave me no drink….”
This is what happens when we live in the freedom of Christ the King, or reject it:
we share in His joy, or we share in the devil’s torment.
But this text also reminds us of something else:
not only is Christ our only Savior,
but also, the personal freedom Christ brings us
also brings personal responsibility to serve our neighbor.
So not only should we never look to any earthly kings or institutions
to be our Saviour and solve all our problems,
but we should also hesitate to delegate
our own responsibility to serve our neighbor to anyone else,
including the government or other organizations.
Now, government serves a hugely important role in helping those in need,
as do so many worthwhile charitable organizations.
But think how easy it is to see a problem and say,
well, the government or Catholic Charities or the parish
can take care of that.
Granted, sometimes they have greater resources than we do individually,
but not always.
And every time we delegate away our service we run the risk of
rejecting a personal invitation from Christ
to personally love our neighbor as we should.
Also, we can wind up delegating our responsibility
to people who may not be acting in true service and love,
especially in bureaucracies that can be easily manipulated
by individuals with bad intentions.
And it also leads to problem related to delegating through monetary support.
While it’s a necessary and good thing
to use our earthly treasure to help good causes,
including the parish
Jesus says: “I was in prison and you visited me”
—money can never replace person to person acts of love.
And giving money can lead to still other problems:
For example, some say paying taxes is an act of loving your neighbor,
so many people think they’ve fulfilled their duty to love
by paying their taxes.
But it’s not love if someone says, “pay or go to jail.”
Love is something freely given, not something coerced.
And beyond all this, remember that the greatest needs man has
are not physical or financial, but spiritual.
Governments can’t do much at all to meet these needs.
And while some organizations, like parishes for example,
rightly exist for this purpose,
there is no replacement for personal action—your action.
How many people hunger for Christ, but do not know him?
You feed them by teaching them.
How many are imprisoned by their sinful lifestyles,
and long for Christ to come to them?
You bring him to them.
How many are plagued by the sickness of sins?
Let the great physician, Jesus Christ,
use you to pour his healing grace upon them.
It is clear that man and mankind not only longs for but needs a savior.
But it is equally clear that no earthly person or thing
—not a president or a government or a charitable organization—
can truly bring the salvation we long for:
freedom from sin, and freedom to love.
As we continue with this holy Mass,
let us pray for all those who lead us in this world.
But let us also ask the Good Lord to fix in our hearts and minds
that He alone is our Saviour and our hope.
Praised be Jesus Christ our King.