30 Nov Christ the King
Father Shawn Hughes
November 26, 2017
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.
God bless you.
“¡Viva Cristo Rey!”–Long live Christ the King!– these were the last words Father Miguel Agustin Pro uttered before he was executed,…shot before a firing squad, in 1927 in Mexico…the crime…being a Catholic priest and serving his flock.
Father Pro was born into a prosperous, devout family in Guadalupe, Mexico, he entered the Jesuits in 1911, but three years later fled to Granada, Spain, because of religious persecution in Mexico. He was ordained in Belgium in 1925 and immediately returned to Mexico, where he served the underground Church celebrating the Eucharist and the other sacraments in secret. The government of the day, under President Calles (K-eye-ez) was very anti-clerical and sought to suppress the practice of Catholicism, and the power of all Catholic institutions. Priests and Religious were forbidden to wear distinctive garb; forbidden to comment on politics and forbidden to celebrate the Sacraments.
In 1927, he and his brother Roberto were arrested under false charges. His brother was spared, but Father Miguel was sentenced to face a firing squad on November 23, 1927. On that day he prayerfully walked to the site at which he was to be executed. He blessed the members of the firing squad, stood facing them with a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other. He shouted: “May God have mercy on you. May God Bless you. Lord you know that I am innocent. With all my heart I forgive my enemies.” As the firing squad was ordered to shoot he raised his arms and shouted: ““¡Viva Cristo Rey!”–Long live Christ the King!” President Calles (K-eye-ez) had the execution photographed and splashed across the pages of the newspapers the next day in an attempt to frighten all Catholics. It had the opposite effect. Thousands upon thousands showed up for his funeral.
Long live Christ the King. This King,…this King that Father Miguel, now Blessed Miguel, laid down his life for is the King we celebrate on this Solemnity of Christ the King.
Today’s gospel is very strong. Jesus Christ portrays with prophetic certainty his own glorious return at the end of time as Judge and King. All the nations of the world will come before him to be judged; all the angels make up his royal court; he holds in his hands the eternal destiny of every man and woman of all time. This passage leaves no room for us to wonder about who Christ really is! He is the Lord of all life and all history. The Lord of the Universe. He is the God of glory.
Scripture calls him the king of kings and the Lord of lords: he alone is the holy one, the most high, as we proclaim every Sunday when we sing the Gloria. He is worthy of our complete allegiance. Yet, once again he shows that his Lordship is not only grand and majestic, but intimate and accessible. He is the king who identifies himself with each one of us, his subjects. In fact, he is present in every person. “Whenever you did this to the least of my brothers and sisters you did it to me.” His love is so total, so unabashed, so reckless, that it inserts his very self into every human heart. In a mysterious way: he dwells in each one of us. The revolution that this Lord,…this king…proclaims happens every time we act in accordance with this amazing truth…that every time we pour compassion upon the needy we are pouring compassion on Christ.
Christ is always the most generous of teachers. In the gospel today he teaches that at the end of life we will all have to take a final exam, the only exam that really matters. Christ is the examiner, and in this passage he gives us ahead of time not only the questions on the exam, but also the answers. How shall we be judged? “Whenever you did this to these, the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me?” AND “Whenever you did not do this to these, the least of my brothers and sisters, you did not do it to me.” We will be judged not only for the good things we have done for those in need but also for when we have failed to help those in need. In the end, all that will matter is what we have done for Christ and our neighbour.
We will not be ask how much money we made, how many awards we have won, how famous we have become, how many discoveries we made, how many achievements we accomplished, how much we enjoyed ourselves, or how many people we have working under us.
We will be asked one question: what did you do for me in your neighbour? Christ teaches us repeatedly in the gospels that the secret to happiness in this life and the life to come is self-giving, self-forgetful love, serving the spiritual and material needs of our brothers and sisters, through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ. Only self-giving, the mark of authentic love, counteracts the epidemic of self-centeredness, self-indulgence, and self-sufficiency; only when we pour compassion on anyone in need will Christ the King, Christ the judge, pour the joy of his Kingdom into our hearts.
This scene of the Final Judgment can be seen as a dramatization of the central dogmatic truth of Christian morality as expressed unequivocally in the First Letter of St. John:
“If any one says,” I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.” 1 John 4:20-21).This is strong coming from an apostle. It becomes exponentially stronger coming from the mouth of Christ…God Himself at the critical moment of the supreme judgment.
“Lord when did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, sick or in prison.” Whenever you did this to these, the least of my brothers and sisters you did it to me.” In Christ’s assuming human nature God’s glory is to be found shining in the darkest places of humanity. Fully God and Fully Man, In Jesus’ very existence, God in him is crying out: I who am Being itself…am also the least of my brothers and sisters.
At the final Judgement our glorious king radically, graphically and realistically self-identifies with the destitute of this world.
We speak of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. And He is really present. Jesus Christ, Fully God, fully man, fully present, Body, Mind, Soul and Divinity. The gospel today is saying Christ, the divine King, in both the ordinary nakedness of the bread we receive in Holy Communion and the suffering nakedness of the needy will be a terrible judgment to those who deliberately blind themselves to His hidden presence; in either…but; at the same time, it will be the source of unsurpassable joy to those who recognize and embrace it. The vital nourishment of our souls in Holy Communion requires that we go forth from here to encounter with compassion our broken Lord out there.
You will recall I mentioned last week that Pope Benedict XVI reminded us in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love): “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented”
And also I mentioned in his message on the First World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis similarly reminded us: “If we truly wish to encounter Christ, we have to touch his body in the suffering bodies of the poor, as a response to the sacramental communion bestowed in the Eucharist.”
The key message today is that Jesus equates salvation…our salvation itself…with whether or not we have actively sought out and welcomed with compassion the needy he has placed in our paths. The demands of this gospel are very clear. This is not love in the abstract, having affection for “humanity.” It is caring for that person who is homeless, for that person who is ill, for that person who is in prison. What is being said here is to ignore the cry of the needy is a tacit blasphemy against the mercy of God and the greatest of sins is to block God’s mercy from saving the world.
All human lack and need…the many forms which hunger, thirst, nakedness, alienation, sickness and imprisonment…All human lack and need…can be transfigured by compassion into a place where God can manifest his Glory.
Today, together with Blessed Miguel Pro we can cry out: “Long live Christ the King”