Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on November 23 and 24, 2013 for the Feast of Christ the King in Ordinary Time Cycle C at the 6:00PM (Vigil), 8:00AM and 10:30AM Masses
Today is a big day in the Church. First, it is the feast of Christ the King, when the Church proclaims Jesus as the King of the Universe, with dominion and authority over all peoples and nations. Second, the feast of Christ the King marks the last day of the Year of Faith that Pope Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus Benedict, instituted so that we could grow in our faith and deepen our relationship with Christ. Lastly, the feast of Christ the King marks the end of the current Church year as next week we will celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, the start of a new Church year, as we begin our preparations for the coming of the Lord.
Because there is so much going on today and with so much material to cover, I am going to need about thirty minutes of your time today to explain all of this to you. Is that OK? Probably not. Our lives are so busy that we don’t have any extra time to spare, do we? We have work or homework to worry about. We have chores to do. We have appointments, practices, lessons, bills to pay, shopping to do, phone calls, emails, and texts to respond to, and we want to watch the game today. It would also be nice if we could work in a little time to sleep, exercise, and eat right. It would also be nice to hang out with our friends or family, and maybe even waste some time watching another cat video on YouTube. Did I mention that Christmas is just around the corner? With all we have going on in our lives and all the distractions we face it is amazing that we even make it to Mass at all!
But that is exactly why Pope Pius XI established the feast of Christ the King in the year 1925. You see Pope Pius was a prophet. He could see almost a hundred years ago that people were becoming so busy and they were focusing so much of their attention on worldly things that they were beginning to push God aside and put faith on the lower end of their priority list. Society was becoming increasingly more secular, focusing less and less on God, reducing God’s role and influence in nations, governments, schools, and culture. Pope Pius saw that people and society were beginning to lose touch with the presence of God and he knew the negative effects this changing attitude was going to have on the world, and so he instituted this feast so that the world could refocus its priorities and again put faith and God at the center of all things. The feast of Christ the King is an opportunity for all of us to realize the importance of faith and to recognize the positive influence Christ’s presence has on the world and in our lives. But most importantly, the feast of Christ the King reminds us of the great love that Jesus has for all of us, which helps us to more fully understand why he needs to be at the center of all that we do.
Today’s gospel seems so out of place for the feast of Christ the King. Jesus is not being anointed king as King David is being anointed in today’s first reading from the Book of Samuel. Jesus’ reign in the heavenly kingdom is not described as it is in today’s second reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians. Instead we hear the details of Jesus being mocked and ridiculed by the crowds as he endures a painful and agonizing death on the Cross. Yet this gospel is very appropriate for the feast of Christ the King because Jesus’ rise to power as our Lord and King begins at the very moment he is willingly raised on the Cross. He certainly had the power to save himself from pain, suffering, and death, as he had done for so many others throughout his ministry, but he accepts death and the Father’s will in order that each one of us may live. Jesus is a king that puts the lives of each and every one of his subjects ahead of his own. We often see the Cross as an object of pain, suffering, and death, but the Cross is proof of the incredible love that Christ has for us. The Cross is a symbol of his love. A love so great that he wants us to spend eternity with him in Paradise. That is why we must make Christ the priority in our lives, because he makes us his priority and he demonstrates that through his great love for us, especially his death on the Cross and the eternal life it makes possible for us.
When a year comes to a close we usually pause to reflect upon all of the good and the bad that has happened throughout the year. As the Year of Faith comes to a close today, it is a good time for us to reflect on all the good and bad that happened in our life of faith this past year. Did we stop to recognize Christ’s love and presence in our everyday lives? Did others experience Christ’s love and presence through us? Did the way we live our lives this past year show us to be the “Good Thief,” a person of faith clearly confessing to others that Jesus is our Lord and King by our words and actions? Or did the way we live our lives this past year show us to be the “Bad Thief,” a person without faith, mocking and ridiculing Jesus? Did we make Christ our priority?
For each of us there are good and bad moments in our life of faith, because our faith is a work in progress. Next week is the First Sunday of Advent, the start of a new Church year. At the beginning of a new year we usually make resolutions to improve ourselves. In the coming year we should resolve to improve our “work in progress” faith and deepen our relationship with Christ, to become more like the “Good Thief” and less like the “Bad Thief.” This Advent let us prepare ourselves so that we are ready for the coming of Jesus, not just on Christmas Day, but each and every day, making Christ our priority so that one day Jesus may say to us, just as he did to the Good Thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
So as we come forward to receive our Lord in the Eucharist today, let us be reminded on this feast of Christ the King that Jesus is indeed our King, and yet he rules with great love, putting each and every one of us ahead of himself. He has done so much for us, especially on the Cross, and yet he is still pouring out love, grace, and blessings upon each and every one of each and every day. All we have to do is to make some time in our busy lives to recognize his presence and accept his gifts to us. Let us rejoice and be glad that we have such a king!