Fr. Paul's Homily
There is a story about King George V of England who held the thrown from 1910 to 1936. Patients at a particular hospital were told that the King would be visiting one day and a young 10 year old boy was especially excited. The day arrived and although several visitors stopped by to see the young boy, including an elderly gentleman, he was upset at the end of the day since he felt that the King had not come by. His attending nurse told him, “Oh, the elderly gentlemen who visited you was the king.” The boy cried, “But he didn’t have a crown on.”
He did not have a crown on, so the boy could not recognize him! We all have our pre-conceived notions of what a king should look like and act like. Today, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. In many people’s eyes, Jesus did not look like a king, nor did he act like a king; and the only crown he ever wore was made of thorns. So, what kind of king was Jesus? Let’s talk.
This Sunday completes the church’s liturgical year. Beginning in Advent with the anticipation of Jesus’ birth, we have walked through the many experiences of Jesus and his young church, leading up to predictions of his final coming at the end of all time. This Sunday, we complete this journey by proclaiming Jesus as King; as the Lord of heaven and earth. As St. Paul says, “Every voice in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth shall proclaim Jesus as Lord.” All will proclaim the reign of Jesus Christ.
So what kind of king is Jesus? While we imagine Jesus sitting upon a throne in the glory of heaven, his early life was not lived in glory. Born into a simple, small town, Jesus lived his life quietly until he was 30 years old. Then he began a ministry that involved preaching and healing. At the same time, he was calling his religious leaders to have a new vision of God and how we are to live. Jesus preached a compassionate love of God for all people, and he asked us to follow his example.
Jesus was a human being, and the Son of God. He truly lived as one of us, not in a distant tower or palace. We appreciate a leader who is not afraid to mix with his staff or employees; sharing in their work and knowing their joys and sorrows. Pope Francis has constantly stressed to priests that they must share in the joys and sorrows of their people by living close to them and knowing their lives. He uses the image that a shepherd should “smell” like his sheep!! This is a graphic image of how we should mix with people, so that we can know what they experience. Jesus mixed with his people.
Saturday I did a burial service for a doctor who died recently. When he died, the family received a letter from a woman who had lost her mother when she was 11years old in 1972. The deceased doctor had served as her mother’s doctor. This woman shared that at the time of her mother’s death, she received a 3 page handwritten letter from this doctor, consoling her and offering a faith-filled understanding of her mother’s death. This woman, now 54 years old, has kept this letter because it meant so much to her.
This doctor cared about his patients and their families with compassionate, willing to “go the extra mile.” This doctor was close enough to his patients to feel their pain. Christ the King smiles on the life of this doctor.
As King, Christ wore the crown of thorns, not a crown of gold. Jesus not only did not have a palace, he says that “He had no place to lay his head.” He wanted his disciples to see him as Savior and King only through the lens of his suffering and cross. His glory was the glory of the cross! Can you see the contradiction? Glory is found in having no glory, in the earthly sense.
We have all had one of those days when we spent the entire time helping others in need. Maybe it was hauling the kids from one practice to another; or taking care of elderly parent or spouse; or working long hours at a job so that you could provide a house and food for your loved ones. And after this long day of giving to others, we sit exhausted in our chair at home, too tired to watch T.V.
At the conclusion of the day, I invite you to look at the crucifix. I invite you to see the exhaustion, the pain, the aloneness of Jesus on that cross. And in seeing his experience, let us align our experience with him. Let us realize that when we are exhausted because we have loved others, we are in fact serving Christ the King, who also loved over and over again by helping those in need.
My friends, Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world. His kingship was not about power, glory and control of everyone around him. No, Jesus kingship was about washing the feet of others. We honor Him, as King, when we do the same.