HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI
TOPIC: THE REIGN OF CHRIST
BY: Fr Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Mt 25:31-46
“The Way Which Leads You to His Kingdom”
1. The Marian Message
a) The Blessed Mother reminds us of the coming of Christ to establish His reign in the world. It is her task to prepare the world for this “coming of the glorious reign of my Son, Jesus” (letter g).
b) She describes the four areas of the reign of Jesus. The first is “in the hearts and in the souls of all” (letter b). It is her task of driving away all evil and sins from the soul of a creature so that it will be transformed into its original beauty and holiness according to God’s design, “and thus you will be the precious domain of his divine royalty.” In theological terms, she is talking about sanctifying grace, that is, a sharing in the divine nature of God. In other words, we become clearer reflections of God, become more and more like God, fit to share in his Kingdom.
c) The second is in the families: “Jesus must reign in families” (letter d). She tirelessly works for an “increase, in families, harmony and peace, understanding and concord, unity and faithfulness.” The enthronement of the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or of Christ the King should be a reminder to all families that it is Jesus who is the head of the family, and all its members must obey and be faithful to Him at all times. That is the key to the family’s strength and unity.
d) The third is in the whole of humanity: “Jesus must reign in all humanity” (letter e). God wants everybody to be saved. Hence, the Blessed Mother is “working powerfully today to lead all humanity along the road of return to God, by way of conversion, of prayer and of penance.” She leads in the battle against the evil forces and elements in this world to decisively defeat them so that the reign of Jesus will be fully established in all humanity.
e) The fourth is in the Church: “Jesus must reign in the Church” (letter f). Although the Church is “the privileged portion of his divine and loving domain,” it is not immune from the sins and stains in the world. She needs to be cleansed and purified from all these so that she becomes a beautiful and clear reflection of Jesus, her King. This is what the Blessed Mother is doing during these difficult and painful times.
f) Finally, the Blessed Mother reveals that, “My Immaculate Heart is the way which leads you to his reign” (letter g). In fact, the triumph of her Immaculate Heart coincides with the final victory of Jesus in his glorious reign. In other words, consecrating our lives to the Immaculate Heart of Mary makes us her special children dearly close to her, and this will hasten the triumph of her Immaculate Heart and the glorious reign of her Son, Jesus.
2. Background Information
a) This is the last Sunday of the year. It is always the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King. The readings are eschatological, that is, talking about the last things and the end- times. After all, everything has its end, including this world. But it is not something to be afraid of. Rather than looking at it as the end, we should regard it as the beginning of the glorious reign of God among us.
b) God did not intend to form Israel, His Chosen People, as a monarchy. It is a theocracy, which means God is the King of His people. There is supposed to be no human king for Israel. The kingdom, starting with King Saul, was a result of man’s rebellion against God. God yielded to Israel’s obstinacy and allowed them to have a human king. But as shown in the Old Testament, it was a short-lived kingdom. Soon after David and Solomon, unfaithful and unworthy kings followed, and not long after, the kingdom was divided into two: the southern kingdom (Judah) and the northern kingdom (Samaria). The people realized that their sufferings were the fruits of their rebellious and obstinate attitude against God and His commands.
c) The image of Jesus as king is not something new and unusual. He has given several parables using the image of a king. And on some occasions, notably after the multiplication of the bread and fish, the people made audacious moves to make him king, but he would always get away secretly. The last mention about his being king was in Pilate’s palace and the inscription at the head of the cross: “INRI” (iesus nazarenus rex iudaeorum – Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews).
d) But the king that the people had in mind was a political one, similar to that of King David. That is why the title Son of David was very popular and meaningful to the Jewish people. With Jesus gaining popularity, they were all the more convinced that he is the political Messiah they have been waiting for. Their immediate goal was the freedom of the Chosen People, the emancipation from the domination of the Romans. They were not thinking about freedom from sin, salvation and God’s kingdom. Their agenda was mainly political. The king will be a fearless warrior who will lead the people in waging victorious wars against Israel’s enemies. That is why in their mind, the king cannot suffer and die. So, when Jesus was talking about his forthcoming sufferings and death, they just could not understand him, and they refused to listen to him.
e) Yet Jesus is not just a political messiah, or another worldly king. He is the Savior of mankind; He is the eternal King of the universe. His kingdom is not temporary and limited; it is eternal and beyond any limitation of time and space. It is not a kingdom obtained through human succession, or through victories in bloody wars. Rather it is the kingdom of God, “an eternal and universal kingdom, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace” (Preface of the Mass on the Solemnity of Christ the King). Through Jesus, God re-established His Kingship once again, this time not anymore over a stubborn and rebellious people, but over a “priestly people, kingly people”, truly humble and obedient to God.
f) “The king is Jesus; in him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself. This is the usual form of the divine activity in relation to mankind. God does not have a fixed plan that he must carry out; on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even of turning his wrong ways into right ways… The Feast of Christ the King is, therefore, not a feast of those who are subjugated, but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight with crooked lines.” – Pope Benedict XVI
g) How do people belong to this kingdom? Jesus said that it is not like membership to a group or clan, nor is it by appointment, family lineage or inheritance. It is not something easily recognizable and quantifiable: “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Lk 17:20-25).
Membership in God’s kingdom is open to all people, but with one condition: obedience to the will of God. Jesus is called the “firstborn of all creatures” because when he assumed the form of a creature as man, he fully obeyed the will of the heavenly Father, even to the point of death. “And because of this, God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name above every other name so that, at the name of Jesus, every knee must bend, in the heavens and on the earth and under the earth, and very tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: Jesus Christ is Lord!” (cf. Philippians 2:6-11).
In other words, the first one to be born into the kingdom of God is Jesus Christ himself, true God and true man, mainly because of his total and unconditional obedience to the will of the Father. After Christ, we, too, can be members of this kingdom if we just obey God’s will in our lives. Jesus summarized God’s will by saying: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
3. The Sunday Gospel
a) The only formula to gain entrance into God’s kingdom is love. It is God’s commandment and, as what St. John the Apostle said to the early Christians in Patmos, “if this is only followed, it is enough.” The ultimate question that will be posed to us by God on Judgment Day is: How much have you loved?
b) Since this is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Gospel is also about the last day of our life, the Final Judgment. Jesus will come, not anymore as a small baby, but this time as the glorious Judge of all peoples, living and dead. And he will separate the good and the bad, those who will be welcomed to God’s Kingdom and those who will be rejected and thrown to eternal fire and damnation.
c) The basis of the judgment is LOVE: “Whatsoever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Love is an action word, and it manifests itself in good deeds towards fellowmen, especially the lost, the last and the least. It is the command of God, which we must follow: Love one another. Jesus identified himself with the least brothers: the poor, the hungry and thirsty, the homeless, the sick, the prisoners and the oppressed. It is a challenge for us to prove our love of God by loving our neighbors. If we love God, we must also love those whom He loves. And we love our neighbors, especially those in need, because we see Jesus in them.
d) To belong to the kingdom of God, to become true and loyal subjects of Christ the King, there is no need for any other ID or external sign or membership badge. The only mark that will give us admittance to His Kingdom is love. Jesus said: “By this shall all men know you as my disciples: your love for one another.”
e) On the other hand, those who are condemned to everlasting fire are those who do not follow the will of God, which is basically obedience to the command of love. This is mainly due to selfishness, pride, arrogance and unbridled materialism. These are the direct enemies of love. They make a person unwilling to give of himself to others, and so he cannot truly love. Love of self is never true love, for true love is self-giving, entirely selfless. Selfish persons have no room in God’s kingdom, “a kingdom of justice, peace and love.”
f) One important warning: The Gospel account this Sunday has been widely misinterpreted by many people, especially by non-Catholics. They believe that the corporal acts of mercy for the poor and the needy are enough guarantees for salvation. This leads them to conclude that there is no more need for the sacraments, the Church and faith; that salvation can be achieved by simply doing good acts for the poor. This is not correct. We are reminded that the teaching of the Gospel this Sunday presupposes faith in Jesus and obedience to his commands and teachings. We do such corporal acts of mercy mainly because we love and believe in Jesus as our Lord and God. When we do these things solely for the welfare of the poor, without any consideration for Jesus, we will not be known as Christians, but only as social workers or philanthropists.
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