Today we are celebrating two beautiful occasions. The first is the feast of Christ the King; it is the culmination of our liturgical year. Secondly, and this is no coincidence we we have chosen to have our 75th anniversary Mass. It is most appropriate that Christ the King and 75 years be celebrated together. Holy Family Parish from the beginning has been dedicated to the kingship of Jesus and our very existence comes from the service we do to him and in his name.
When I think of Christ the King, I always remember the thirty-day retreat I made before I was ordained. It was a completely silent four week retreat based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. The central meditation of the retreat was entitled the Two Banners. On one side is the banner of pride, self-indulgence, comfort. It is the banner of the world or Satan. On the other side is banner of humility, sacrifice, self-denial--this is standard of Christ the King. The retreatant after much consideration is asked to choose between the two. Are you going to march under the banner of Christ or of Satan? That is the ultimate question all of us have to ask.
I don't want to be like the guy who at the end of his life left some instructions for his funeral service. He said wanted someone to stand next to his casket and sing this song: "I Did it My Way." It is nice song, but I hope it does not sum up that man's life. If so he would be in for a surprise. The devil may have received him with an ironic smile. "you thought you were doing it your way. I've got news for you," says Satan. "All the time you were doing exactly what I wanted. You were doing it my way."
When we try to do things my way we think we are acheiving freedom, liberty, but we are actually falling into the worse slavery. Slavery to our base self, ultimately to the devil himself. When all is said and done, there are only two banners we can march under. Satan or Christ the King.
When it comes to following Christ, I think we have been misleading our children. We are anxious that they become self-reliant, autonomous, independent, that they develop self-esteem. Those aren't necessarily the basic Christian virtues. Jesus did not say, "Blessed are they who think well of themselves, who have everything under-control." No, he said, "Blessed are the poor... those who know their utter dependence on God."
One of my priest friends who has a Catholic school like we do, was approached by a parent. She said to him, "Father, I'm thinking about suing the parish school." My friend gave a start, "Why?" He asked. She said, "They are ruining my daughter's self-esteem."
"How are they doing that?" he asked. She continued, "they are telling her she is a sinner." A lot could be said about that potential lawsuit, but I will confine myself to noting that woman has not been an observant mother if she thinks her daughter is not a sinner.
But we have a deeper problem here. Self-esteem does not come from thinking, "I'm perfect. I've never done anything wrong." Self-esteem, in the true sense, means knowing that I'm forgiven and that I can forgive others. Self-esteem without humility is a trap. It in fact is the great rip-off of pop psychology.
It is hard for us to acknowledge something on the feast of Christ the King. Not just that we need Jesus' forgiveness, but that he has the ultimate authority over our lives. A king in Jesus time was nnot some conversation piece like the English monarchy. A king had great power over his subjects; if he gave an order, they obeyed. That is why Pilate is so careful to interrogate Jesus about whether he in fact is a king. To be a king means being able to command, to exercise authority.
You know, authority is the key to community. We live in a world where people feel lonely, isolated from each other. We're hungry for community. But we cannot have community without authority. A family needs authority to stay together. Children have to learn to honor and obey their parents, even if God did not give them perfect ones. The fourth commandment does not say, "Honor thy mother and father--as long as they are perfect." The fourth commandment says, "Honor thy father and thy mother." Authority, respect is essential if a family is going to survive. The same is true of a school or a parish or an archdiocese.
We have a great opportunity in a few weeks. We are going to receive a new Archbishop. We are going to be asked to honor Archbishop Brunnet and follow his leadership. I'd like to ask you to make an early new year's resolution: Not to say anything disrespectful--or critical--of our new archbishop. I'd ask you to do that in relation to your pastor, but it's too late for most of you. You've already done it. But that is OK. We can start afresh. Let's celebrate 75 years by only saying positive things about Holy Family Parish.
As we celebrate 75 years, we want to honor, to thank the people who have gone before us. At our anniversary Mass Sunday afternoon, we will hear a history of Holy Family. I think it will really be inspiring. We have so much to be grateful for. Our problem, yours and mine, is that we don't show enough gratitude. We tend to focus on our problems to complain. (I know what you are thinking, "it's easy for Father Bloom to say that. He doesn't know the problems I have." Well, that may be so, but all us would be two thirds of the way to solving our problems if we constantly focused on gratitude, appreciation.)
One of things I really appreciate is the beautiful church we have received. It took a lot of sacrifices. Back in the early 50's Holy Family was known as one of the poorest parishes, but Monsignor McGrath did not want us to have a poor church. He challenged the people and they built this beautiful church, with its magnificent stain glass windows. As Monsignor said, they are "sermons in glass." If a person understood each one of the windows he would really know his faith. On Feb. 7, 1954 the first Mass was celebrated in this Church--and in June 1961 it was consecrated. That means it was debt-free. Wow! What sacrificial giving to pay off a church debt in seven years.
We're asked to give sacrificially this Sunday. I want to take some time now so that each person here with financial resources can fill out a sacrificial giving pledge. As Bill Gonzalez said last Sunday, it does not matter how much you can give. The important thing is that everyone uses envelopes and supports this parish. This parish was built on the financial donations of people who had very small incomes. At the same time we know there are people here who can give more, who can increase their level of giving by 1/2 or even one percent. ... Let's continue to march under the banner of Christ the King. Let us put our whole lives, including our financial resources, under his authority
From Archives (Homily for Christ the King, Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Homily for Christ the King 1999: The Final Judgment
Christ the King 1998 The Great Secret
St. Mary of the Valley Album
Pictures from Peru
News article and television video about Ben's death
Ben with Julien Bloom
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
(new, professional website)