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Saturday, 21 November 2015

Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, CSSp. Last Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B



Daniel 7:13-14,  Revelation 1:5-8,  John 18:33-37

-          On the Gospel: Acknowledging Christ as King

Christians in Nigeria and some other West African countries celebrate Christ the King Sunday with a big, festive parade through the main streets of their cities. This may sound unfamiliar to Christians in other parts of the world, but a public manifestation of faith may not be far from what Pope Pius XI had in mind when, in 1925, he established the feast of Christ the King. The feast is a proclamation of the Christian belief that the reign of Christ should be felt not only in the private lives of Christians but also in the public domain.

The feast was originally celebrated on the last Sunday in October. This meant that only Roman Catholics and Anglo Catholics could celebrate it because Lutherans and most other Protestant churches celebrated Reformation Sunday on the same day. Vatican Council II did well to shift the feast to the last Sunday of the liturgical year because now most Christians, Catholics and Protestants together, can celebrate it. In this way the whole Church bears common witness to Christ whom we proclaim as king of our lives and of our world.

One reason why the feast was initially celebrated on the last Sunday of October was, perhaps, to associate it with the feast of All Saints on November 1. For, who are the saints if not those generous men, women and children who bore courageous witness to Christ in their lives, private as well as public? One such saint who has been in the news lately is St Thomas More, recently proclaimed patron saint of politicians. Thomas More was a brilliant lawyer and diplomat in 16th century England. His patriotism and loyalty to the throne attracted the attention of King Henry VIII who made him Lord Chancellor of England, the first layperson to be entrusted with such an honourable responsibility. What Henry VIII did not know was that loyal as More was to him, his first loyalty was to Christ, the king of kings.

When Henry VIII, therefore, decided to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon, marry Anne Boleyn, and make himself head of the Church of England, More thought this was not right. Rather than approve what he believed to be against the divine will, he resigned from his prestigious and wealthy position as Lord Chancellor and lived a life of poverty. Because he would not give his support to the king, More was arrested, convicted of treason, imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1534 and beheaded in July of the following year. On his way to public execution, More encouraged the people to remain steadfast in the faith. His last recorded words were: "I die the king's good servant, but God's first." For More, it was not simply enough to confess Christ privately in the safety of one's heart and home; one must also confess him in one's business and professional life as well as in the laws and policies that govern society.

This does not mean that the kingship of Christ is necessarily a threat to the kingdoms of the world. This was the thinking of Pontius Pilate when he was interrogating Jesus to ascertain whether Jesus was a king. Jesus' answer was that, yes, he was indeed a king, but not the sort of king he had in mind. "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here" (John 18:36). Wherein lies the difference between the kingship of Christ and that of Pilate and other kings of this world? We can name three: (1) Other kingdoms have territorial boundaries but the kingship of Christ is universal. Christ is king without borders. (2) Other kingdoms come and go, but the kingship of Christ is eternal. (3) Other kingdoms are sustained by military or economic power, but the kingship of Christ is sustained by the power of truth. Citizens of Christ's kingdom must, therefore, stand by the truth even when it is hurting and embarrassing to do so.

When we speak about the kingdom of God in this way, some people ask: what then becomes of patriotism and national loyalty? Patriotism and national loyalty certainly have their place in the Christian life, but loyalty to God comes first. In the name of patriotism and national loyalty some Christians have surrendered their consciences to the state. If the state says it is lawful, then it is all right to do it. A good example is abortion. Or, if the state says it is illegal, then it is wrong to do it. An example is helping a needy "illegal" immigrant. Today's celebration challenges us to do better than that: to look more critically at the laws and policies governing public life and examine them in the light of the law of Christ. As Christians we should be loyal citizens of our countries, but loyal citizens of God's kingdom first.

-          On the Epistle: Ruler of the Kings of the Earth

Today's second reading from the book of Revelation touches on two important things that are on our minds today. The first is the idea of Christ as king, which we celebrate today. The second is that today is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent and the beginning of a new liturgical year. At the end of the Christian year of worship, our minds turn to thoughts of the end of all things, of the end times. Our reading from Revelation has much to tell us about the kingship of Christ and about the end times.

The reading begins by giving us three new titles for Christ. "Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth" (Revelation 1:5). From this we see that Christ is not just a king, he is the king of kings. He is "the ruler of the kings of the earth." The reign of Christ is one that extends not just to individuals and the church but to the state also. There are many people today who believe that the reign of Christ is simply an internal influence in the hearts of those who believe. That is what they mean by separation of church and state. But that is not correct. We believe in the separation of church and state, not in the separation of God and state. A state may not endorse one particular religion over others. This is called freedom of religion. But a state should strive always to be one nation under God.

Similarly, there are many Christians who keep away from politics, calling it a dirty game unworthy of committed Christians. Such Christians need to be reminded today that Christ is "the ruler of the kings of the earth." In order words, Christ is interested and involved in politics. Christ may not be a member of one political party or the other, since all political parties are accountable to him. But Christ is interested in those who govern and how they rule, since they are supposed to be instruments through whom God cares for His people (Romans 13:1-7).

One Christian correspondence course that is popular in Africa teaches that "Satan's world system includes commerce, politics, religion, education, entertainment, world kingdoms, world organizations and many other things." This kind of belief makes Christians recoil into their shells and curse the darkness rather than stand up and light a candle. "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it" (Psalm 24:1). So, let us stand up in our faith and take the world for Christ. The world already belongs to him in principle, anyway. Let us be proactive in transforming the social order, and not only react with complaints at those who are not doing it right.
The celebration of Christ as our king reminds us that Christ has made us, his followers into "a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father" (Revelation 1:6). Our service of God extends to the political and social realms. A Christian who is content with remaining a closet Christian does not fully understand what it means to be a Christian. African Christians who hold a public parade of faith on this day are right. Today's feast is a statement that Christ and his message should have a place in social and public life, not just in the private lives of believers.

The reign of Christ is present as a mustard seed in this life. As Christians our work is to nurture this seed so that it grows. The seed will grow and reach maturity and become a tree in whose branches the birds of the air will take refuge at the coming of Christ on the Last Day.
Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

Christ will come as king to judge both individuals and nations. "Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him." This refers to individuals. "And on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail." This refers to nations. The word translated as "tribes" (phylê) also means "peoples" as well as "nations." Be patriotic, bring your country back to Christ. Vote wisely. Contribute to the ideas that shape the nation and the world today. This is how we allow Christ to be king not just in our hearts, not just in our church, but also in our nation and in our world.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:40 pm

    Give us grace Lord... the message is Clear

    ReplyDelete

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