The Last Enemy

(Homily for Christ the King, Year A)

Most of you have heard of the Polish astronomer Niclas Kopernik. He is better known by the Latin version of his name: Copernicus. He developed a theory which gave the true explanation for the movements of the planets: namely, that (contrary to appearances) the sun does not move around the earth, but that the earth – as well as the other planets – moves around the sun.* Every schoolchild knows this about Copernicus.

What many people do not know about the great astronomer is that all his life he was a devout Christian. As a young man he came to Rome in order to participate in the Holy Year of 1500. There is evidence that he prayed the office, the Liturgy of Hours, every day of his adult life. On his deathbed his admirers brought him the astronomy books he had written, asking him to point out the most significant passages. He brushed them aside and instead asked a friend to write this epitaph:

O Lord, I cannot ask for the faith that you gave to Paul;
the mercy that you showed to Peter I dare not ask.
But the grace that you showed to the dying robber, that, Lord, show to me.

Copernicus knew the correct relation of planet earth to the sun. He also understood man’s proper relationship to the Lord. Before Him we are fallen creatures in need of grace. In today’s epistle St. Paul tells us that Christ is the exact center of the universe and that human history revolves around his death on the cross.

The way I see this is something like Omaha Beach. Those of you in your seventies or older remember the day when the Allies landed in Northern Europe. Others know about it from history books or from movies like Saving Private Ryan. At an incredible cost the Allies captured a tiny piece of territory. Yet it became the beachhead for an ever expanding conquest. With his Passion, Jesus has done something similar – but on an unimaginably grander scale. His Resurrection, St. Paul tells us, is the “first fruits” of that victory. It will continue to extend until Christ has conquered every “sovereignty, authority and power.” The last enemy which Christ will defeat is death itself.

Christ wants to extend that victory into your life – and mine. It begins by acknowledging our sins. That is why, whenever we celebrate Mass, we take a moment to remember our sins. It doesn’t require a complete examination of conscience like going to confession, just an recognition of who we are. In the words of an old song, “It causes me pain to know I'm not the guy that I should be.” With a moment’s thought, we can recognize that truth.

These past weeks we have reflected on our relation to Christ in terms of Stewardship. Our goal is that every aspect of our lives should come under Christ’s control. My home, my car, my bank account are not my own, but belong to Christ. My body is not my own to do what I please – it belongs to Christ. Every skill, all the energy I have comes from Him. He has counted every second of my life. Stewardship means returning it to Him, placing it all under his control. Some of you have expressed that by filling out commitment cards for Treasure and for Time and Talent. I thank you for that. Perhaps at this moment others of you feel you do not have anything you can offer. I would ask you to do this: Make a commitment to say one decade of the rosary each day for Holy Family Parish. Or if that seems much, one Our Father. Write it down on the card and place it in the collection. It will allow Christ to establish a beachhead in your life. From there his influence, his gentle guidance will expand. All of us have areas of our lives where He is not in control. For that reason, we sometimes say this part of my life is “out of control.” Let Christ set up a beachhead. It might be very small – one Our Father a day. But like Omaha Beach it will expand.

Today’s Feast of Christ the King has a special meaning for me because it marks the tenth anniversary of my dad’s death. Some of you attend his funeral. I was just starting out at Holy Family Parish. It seems like yesterday, so quickly has time passed. I will never forget being at my dad’s bedside when he died. My mom and I had arrived at the Everett hospital a few hours early. I asked my dad if he wanted to receive Communion, which he did as Viaticum: food for the journey. After the prayers he touched his hand to his cheek. Mom bent over and gave him a last kiss, then he slipped into unconsciousness. My mom, my nephew and I knelt by his bed for about a half hour until he let out his last breath. It was a beautiful death. It spoke about the victory of Christ over the final enemy.

My dad was a good man – but not a perfect man. He had his personal demons, including a struggle against alcoholism. For the last decades of his life he was victorious, thanks to Christ, his Higher Power who gave him the daily grace he needed.

My dad was brought up in the Lutheran Church. As boy he often sang the hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross.” On his deathbed, he asked that that hymn be sung at his funeral. Jesus makes an allusion to the cross in today’s Gospel – he speaks about his presence in the imprisoned, the hungry, the immigrant and the infirm. That was Jesus’ condition as he hung upon the Cross. The cross is his victory - and ours. If we approach the cross, we see Jesus sentenced, outcast, naked and thirsty. Our salvation comes from embracing the cross. The hymn sung at my dad's funeral, although we do not often use it in Catholic parishes, express that central truth:

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.


*Copernicus was not the first to expound the heliocentric view. Back in the third century B.C. the Greek natural philosopher Aristarchus had proposed the Sun as the center of planetary motion. He attributed the daily movement of the heavens to the rotation of the Earth on its axis. Opponents of this view had two main objections: If the earth moves, why do we not in some way sense its movement? Moreover, if the earth is moving through space, why do the positions of the nearer stars not change in relation to the more distant ones? Aristotle, among others, considered this absence of the parallax phenomenon as the strongest argument against the heliocentric view. Unable to answer these questions, Copernicus designated his viewpoint as “theory.” A century later, Galileo felt that he had discovered the answer to the first objection in the motion of the tides. Still, he could not solve the second problem. That was the reason scientists like Tycho Brahe had proposed alternative theories which did not involve movement of the earth. By the nineteenth century objections to the heliocentric view were firmly overcome and the theory was accepted by virtually all scientists. That universal acceptance is reflected in the fact that in 1820 Pope Pius VII gave the imprimatur to Elements d’Astronomie, Canon Settele’s astronomy textbooks which teach the Copernican system as an established fact.

Tenth Anniversary of Death of Melvin Bloom Pictures from Anniversary Lunch

Final Version

Spanish Version

From Archives (Christ the King, Year A):

2014: Solidarity Week 4
2011: A New Missal and a New Look at the Works of Mercy
2008: The First Fruits
2005: The Last Enemy
2002: Judgment of the Gentiles
1999: The Final Judgment

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Sunday Homilies

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.

Fr. Brad's Homilies (well worth listening)

Bulletin (Tithing Goal, Tenth Anniversary of my dad's death, Importance of mandatum)

Mandatum Schools

Archbishop Chaput: Narnia tales remind us of eternal Christian truths

Catholic League calls off Wal-Mart Boycott

Pope: the universe was made by an Intelligent Designer:

Deceived by atheism, they believe and try to demonstrate that it is scientific to think that everything lacks a guide and order, as if they were at the mercy of chance. The Lord, with sacred Scripture, awakens the drowsy reason and says to us: In the beginning is the creative Word. In the beginning the creative Word -- this Word that has created everything, which has created this intelligent plan, the cosmos -- is also Love.

What does ID (Intelligent Design) have to do with Roe v. Wade?

First Things (always thought provoking)

Shocking New Birth Control

Beatification of Charles de Foucauld

Western Washington Pro-Life Network (updated)

Curt Jester on Dismissal of Katelyn Sills from Loretto High

National Catholic Register:

After an exhaustive review of sex abuse in the priesthood, among the John Jay study’s findings was the revelation that the majority of sexual abuse by clergy took place during the 1960s and ’70s, with 81% of the victims being males between the ages of 11 and 17. Board member Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, described that finding as “remarkable.” “I’m amazed that this fundamental bombshell has not been the subject of greater interest and discussion,” he told the Register. “I’m astonished that people throughout America are not talking about it, thinking about it, and wondering about what the mechanisms were that set this alight.

Parish Picture Album

(Noviembre de 2011)

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

Parish Picture Album

MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru