Bottom line: The longing for the divine and the desire to honor departed loved ones are beautiful impulses. On the Feast of Christ the King, we glimpse that those longings have a goal.
As you know, in October I took a delegation of parishioners to Peru. Given our brief time, we limited our focus: the orphanages in Lima and Puno, the Mary Bloom Center and the tombs of the Peruvians saints: Rose of Lima and Martin de Porres. We did not time to explore Peru's millenial cultures or to see tourist sites such as Macchu Picchu, Pachacamac and Sillustani.
It was a shame because those places have relevance to us today. As religious sites, they reveal the human longing for the divine. Also they honor, even reverence, those who have died. For example, about fifteen miles from the Mary Bloom Center, a site called Sillustani (see-you-STAN-knee) has mysterious tombs - enormous upside cones for the burial of the dead.
Pope John Paul II once spoke about cultures that "give great importance to the veneration of their ancestors." "They believe instinctively," the pope said, "that the dead continue to live and remain in communion with them." Then he asked, "Is this not in some way a preparation for belief in the Communion of Saints?"
Pope John Paul's successor - Pope Benedict XVI - made a similar point. He spoke about how God's project of salvation is a "mystery - a plan that is revealed little by little throughout human history."
This Sunday, the Feast of Christ the King, we see the sweep of God's plan. The prophet Daniel envisions "one like a Son of Man" who will receive "dominion, glory and kingship." The prophet then states, "all peoples, nations and languages" will serve him. "His dominion is an everlasting dominion."
We see the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy in the Gospel. Precisely at the moment of his greatest humiliation, Jesus asserts, "I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world..." With this assertion of his sovereignty, Jesus allowed his blood to be shed. St. John in the book of Revelation, states that "by his blood" Jesus has freed us from sin and "made us into a kingdom."
This vision of Jesus final triumph has special significance for me. This month, on November 11, my youngest nephew died in house fire. To prepare for the funeral homily, I spent some time interviewing Ben's friends. It gave me a glimpse into a world that I knew very superficially. But I could see in those young people, especially in their music, a protest against the emptiness of our culture, a cry against the hollowness of our society. There was a longing for something genuine and lasting - a longing for the divine. At the same time they expressed that cry, they also remembered Ben with great affecgtion. They showed a powerful desire to honor someone they loved.
Those are beautiful impulses - a longing for the sacred and a desire to honor a departed loved one.* On the Feast of Christ the King, we glimpse that those longings have a goal. Jesus shed his blood for that end - so we could gain entrance into a kingdom that would embrace all peoples, nations and languages.
*St. John Chrysostom in his Homily on First Corinthians said: "Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them." (quoted by Catechism, #1032)
General Intercessions for Christ the King, Cycle B (from Priests for Life)
From Archives (Homily for Christ the King, Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
St. Mary of the Valley Album
(updated Nov 10, 2009)
Pictures from Peru
News article and television video about Ben's death
Ben with Julien Bloom
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
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Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
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