Today is the final Sunday of the Church's liturgical year. We culminate this cycle by celebrating Christ the King. You will notice a change of color. Last Sunday the priest wore green vestments, this Sunday white and next Sunday purple--the beginning of a new year with the season of Advent.
The feast of Christ the King is most appropriate to sum up the liturgical year. Jesus began his preaching by announcing that the Kingdom was at hand. All throughout his public ministry he taught parables of the Kingdom. It is like scattered seed; it is like an expensive pearl; it is like a housewife or a shepherd looking for something which has been lost. Jesus constantly spoke about the Kingdom, but strangely he never precisely identified who the King was. Not until the very end of his life.
In fact, it is only on the last day of his earthly life that Jesus let's out the great secret. When Pilate asks him, "Then you are a King?" Jesus does not deny it. "You yourself have said it," he replies. Before his Passion, Jesus had studiously avoided the title King. He actually fled from it when, after multiplying the loaves, they tried to force a crown on him. But now he accepts it. There is not danger of misleading people into dreams of a paradise on earth.
In today's Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus acknowledges his kingship in a most poignant way. The man hanging on the cross next to him makes this request, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He was in effect asking for citizenship in Jesus' sovereign realm. He would become its first explicit subject. "This very day you shall be with me in paradise." By being first, the good thief is the model for everyone who seeks membership in Jesus' kingdom.
I remember when I was a recently ordained doing graveside services. There was one prayer I was uncomfortable with, that I even sometimes skipped over. It asked that the deceased person, like the good thief, would receive forgiveness for his sins and be welcomed into paradise. I was afraid of offending family members by comparing their loved one to a robber who needs clemency. Perhaps the comparison does jar, but only because we are unaware of our true position before God.
Let me give a humorous comparison. My friend Fr. Vince Pastro used to have small parrot. For some reason the animal did not like me. (I understand parrots get very attached to their owners and resent those who come between them.) Anyway, that bird would start squawking when I walked into the room. And if it was outside of its cage, it would walk across the floor and peck me on my shoe. Fr. Vince and I used to look with amazement at the defiant little guy. He said, "can you imagine going up to someone a hundred times your size and kicking him in the foot?" That bird's defiance is amusing. He is after all only following out his internal programming. But that is not the case with each one of us. We have a choice. We can exalt ourselves and thus separate from God. Or, like the good thief, we can place ourselves under Jesus' kingship.
Here at Holy Family we have a beautiful way of acknowledging Jesus' kingship. This church was built architecturally so that when one enters the focus is on our high altar with its beautiful crucifix and, below that, the tabernacle. Now, I know some people would recommend a separate chapel for the Blessed Sacrament. I understand the reasons for such an arrangement. However, there is something I really like about Jesus being continually present at the center of our high altar. To me it underscores who is the real celebrant. It's not Fr. Bloom. It is not Fr. Gallagher. The real celebrant of our Mass and all our sacraments is Jesus himself. This is true when the Bible is being read from our pulpit. The Word being proclaim, whether from the Old or New Testament is none other than Jesus. When a baby or adult is baptized, it is Jesus who baptizes. The priest or deacon is simply his instrument.
I take great comfort from this, especially as I approach my twenty-seventh years as priest. Even tho I try to be attentive when I celebrate the sacraments, sometimes I gather wool. When I come back, there is an instant that I am not sure where I am at. Now I haven't gone as far as one of my priest friends. He admitted that once after communion at a Sunday Mass, he sat down to meditate and fell fast asleep. After a long silence, punctuated only by his profound breathing, an usher finally had to come forward to wake him. It was not old age that caused such an embarrassing situation, but rather overwork. All of us priests, even younger ones, are frail instruments. Thanks be to God, the real celebrant is Jesus himself.
We are invited this Sunday to find joy in Jesus' kingship--in a sense to bask in our littleness before him. And to recognize that our true worth comes from placing ourselves under his rule.
From Archives (Christ the King Sunday, Year C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies
Podcasts of homilies (website of my niece, Sara)
Evidence for God's Existence from Modern Physics (MP3 Audio File)
my bulletin column
Parish Picture Album
(November of 2010)
Catholicism at a Glance
by Fr. Raymond Cleaveland
Pictures of Earthquake Relief
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
(Pilgrimage to Molokai)
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
KRA's & SMART Goals (updated November 2013)
Article about Fund Raising Event for Mary Bloom Center (Spanish)