TEXT: Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 22, 2015
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 22, 2015
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
It’s said that every human being has a fundamental desire to be free.
But it seems to me,
there are 2 fundamental yet radically conflicting sides to freedom:
on the one hand,
we long to be free to do and to become what we want,
and on the other,
we want to be free from the responsibilities
that freedom imposes.
The desire to be in absolutely charge of our lives,
and yet an eagerness to allow others to lead us.
To be simultaneously, as it were, both Kings and servants.
For example, a while back a friend of mine who owns a small business
told me that the more and more
the people he interviews for jobs, especially, for entry level positions
are making 2 things very clear to him:
they want lots of money
and lots of free time: lots of vacation and no overtime.
Now, this may not be the case for everyone
—a lot of people just want a job or job security,
or they’re ambitious to work hard to get ahead.
Still, this struck me as a pretty typical example of the human condition,
at least under normal conditions:
people, want the time and the money to be free to do what they want.
That’s not entirely crazy or unnatural, or even a bad thing.
But then you look at what they want to do with all that “freedom”:
they become followers of the crowd.
They spend their money on fashionable clothes, what other people are wearing;
they go to the same popular restaurants, where other people are going;
they take trendy vacations, where other people are going.
They want to be kings, in charge of their time, but they also want to be followers, or servants of the crowd.
Now, we all do this.
When I was a young man, working as a CPA,
my main ambition was to be the owner of my own company.
But when I finally had my own company,
I realized how nice it had been to be an employee of someone else
—having the freedom to practice my chosen profession,
but also the freedom from having to pay the rent every month.
Then as I started thinking about becoming a priest,
I thought it might be nice to be a bishop or at least a pastor.
But it didn’t take long for me to get over that.
I wish I could say this is because I’ve become holier, and more humble,
but I can’t.
I just realized that as a Parochial Vicar
I basically had the freedom to be the priest my conscience led me to be,
and the freedom from the administrative burdens
of running a parish, much less a diocese.
Now I’m a pastor, and while I’m in charge of the parish, and I can basically do what I think is right,
I’m also responsible for not only paying the bills and paying off our debt,
and keeping all our programs and liturgies going,
but also for getting all of you to heaven.
I am a king and I am a servant.
Now, the first words of the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis,
tell us that “In the beginning”
the all powerful God created the whole universe,
out of absolutely nothing.
From all time he has been in charge, with all the power over everything. Everything was created through Him, for Him, etc.
And as the last book of the bible, St. John’s Book of Revelation,
tells us, and as we read today,
even when he came to earth as “a Son of man,”
God the Son, incarnate as Jesus Christ, remained
“the Alpha and the Omega,” [the beginning and the end]
“the one who is and who was and who is to come,
But the thing is, when he came into the world he showed us that
His Divine Kingship, His sovereignty over the whole universe, completely and totally, is lived out in an amazing way:
the King of the universe shows himself to be a servant of each of us individually and all of us together.
We see this from the moment of the Incarnation
to His death on the Cross.
As St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians:
“though he was in the form of God,
[Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, …
And being found in human form he humbled himself
…unto death, even death on a cross.”
And as Jesus himself says:
“the Son of man came not to be served but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
But if that’s true, if Christ is the all-powerful King of the Universe,
who freed us from sin by his death,
then why does sin still to seem to dominate the world—and even us?
Genesis tells us that in the beginning:
“God created man in his own image….
…and God said to them,
“… have dominion over …the earth.”
In other words, man is created in the image of the King of creation,
and then the King makes us kings of the creation He has made.
Obviously man is created with a natural capacity to be a king.
But, at the same time, in the life of Jesus Christ,
we see that this kingship is to be lived out in servanthood:
we are clearly created not only to be an image of the King, but also in the image of the servant, and to be servants of our Creator.
So, created in the image of Christ the king,
while we’re naturally destined to live
in the freedom of kings,
we’re also created to live in the in the freedom of servants.
Now, part of “both” of these freedoms is the freedom to choose.
–freedom would be meaningless if we weren’t able to make choices. It would simply be a word, not a reality.
And this is the reason why sin remains in the world.
Specifically, the problem comes when we make the mistake of
choosing between the freedom of a king and the freedom of a servant.
For example, when we choose to act as if
we’re the king of God, not his servant:
when we ignore or rewrite his commandments,
or do things our way, not the way the God created us to.
Or, on the other hand, when we choose to act as if
we’re nothing more than servants, free from any responsibilities:
when priests and bishops leave it to someone else, maybe the pope,
to preach the harder truths of the faith;
when parents leave it to the teachers in the schools to raise their children for them, to teach them values etc.;
and children leave it to their peers to tell them
what to wear, or how to act,
or how to treat their parents.
Sin remains, because from Adam and Eve until today,
mankind has freely chosen to falsely separate
the freedom of kingship and the freedom of servanthood.
But it need not be this way.
In the words of St. John, we read today:
“Jesus Christ is the …ruler of the kings of the earth….
and has freed us from our sins by his blood.”
And as St. John tells us elsewhere, the saints in heaven:
“have washed their robes and made them white
in the blood of the Lamb.”
That same blood of the Lamb, the blood of Jesus Christ the King has been poured out on us from the Cross, poured out on us in our Baptisms,
under the Sacramental symbol of washing with water.
And that same blood flows into us, giving us a share in the life of Jesus Himself, the life of our King.
And sharing in the life of our King, we share in everything he has:
in his power (or grace), in his sonship, so we can be called truly sons and daughters of the Most High God through the Son; we share in His priesthood, as we read also today; and we share in his kingship!
So that in Baptism, that capacity for kingship
that is built into us from the beginning
is fulfilled and lifted up into the eternal Kingship of Jesus himself.
Christ is king, and you and I are not…
…except to the extent that we are united to Christ and his Kingship.
But in the power of Christ’s Kingship,
we can live out the freedom from sin won for us on the Cross
in our daily lives, and moment to moment.
We need never be bound by the temptations of Satan,
or the enticements of the world,
or our own moral or spiritual weaknesses.
And we can freely choose
to be servants of the most high King of heaven and earth
by choosing to rule ourselves, both over our own passions and our own natural abilities,
and making free choices for good over evil.
As we continue in this Holy Mass, the King of Heaven and Earth, Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, descends to the altar.
Let us pay homage and adore our great King.
And by the power of this Eucharist, let us accept the freedom
written in our hearts from the beginning of creation
lost by our sins
but won back for us on the Cross of Christ, represented to us here, in the Eucharist.
May this sacrament renew and strengthen us
in the freedom of Christ’s eternal Kingship,
and in that Kingship may we freely serve him and one another
today in this world, and forever in the glory of the kingdom of heaven.
Praised be Jesus Christ the King, now and forever, Amen.