SERMON FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING
BY: Fr. Precious Ezeh
HOMILY: “JESUS, REMEMBER ME WHEN YOU COME INTO YOUR KINGDOM.”
On the last day of the liturgical year, it is only fitting that the Church ends the year with the celebration of Christ, King of the Universe. The strategic placement of this celebration points, not randomly, to the place of Christ as The Alpha and The Omega, the Beginning and the End!
The Solemnity of Christ the King, which was initiated by Pope Pius XI in 1925, was a reaction to the unbridled secularism that took over the World at the wake of the 20th Century and was meant to show the Sovereignty of Christ over all creation.
The readings of the day, jointly viewed, seem to express the dialectics involved in the kingship of Christ as one who fulfils the messianic expectations. On the one hand, they show the validity of Christ’s kingship by expressing its divine and human roots, and on the other hand, they hint on the paradoxes involved in this kingship.
The first reading from 2nd Samuel shows how the whole of Israel went up to David in Hebron to ask him to be king over them. There, they anointed him king after his agreement with the elders. In Israel, anointing was a necessary ritual in the inauguration of the offices of the prophets, the priests and the kings. In the Old Testament, anointing was central in the whole idea of “messianism”; a belief in the divine promise of a Messiah, the Anointed One, who will liberate Israel and subdue all her enemies.
The idea of messianism started with God’s covenant with David, where God promised to establish his dynasty forever.
However, the oracles of the prophets about this messiah went beyond a mere human ruler to a supernatural king who seemed to share attributes with God. The prophecies of Isaiah, especially, addresses him in divine terms. Isaiah 9:6 called him “wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”, and 11:1-5 speaks of the divine unction upon him.
The 2nd reading from Paul’s letter to the Colosians makes plane the oneness of Christ with the Father. It also shows God’s graciousness in making the Church, the Body of Christ, sharer in the inheritance of Christ, delivering her from the power of darkness and transfering her into God’s wonderful light.
The gospel reading of today presents the paradox of Christ’s kingship. The characters in the gospel question Christ’s kingship, and not surprisingly. Hanging on the cross, he was anything but a king; clad in a strip of rag rather, than a royal garb, surrounded by men who despised him instead of revering him. The rulers sneered at him, the soldiers jeered at him, even the sign above his head” this is the king of the Jews was a mockery!
Hence, all these were below the messianic expectations for a common Jew. They thought the Messiah would overrun the Roman empire and bring glory to Israel. They saw the signs and wonders he did, but they wanted more, a Warlord! And in order to prove that all he did was not enough for the Messiah, their message to him was clear, “he saved others, let him save himself if he is the Chosen One, the Christ of God”.
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Even one the criminals he shared their cross was disappointed in him, “are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” Christ did not respond to these words of degradation. He only responded to the one who was ready for his kingdom, “amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise”.
What transpired here is the message awaiting us today. For one of the criminals, this might have been his first meeting with Christ, but it was for him a moment of repentance, contrition and firm desire to belong to God’s kingdom. Christ did not hesitate to offer him what he desired, in just one stroke of grace. The cross which was a tree of death for one criminal became a confessional for the other!
What can we learn from this criminal? Humility, acceptance of our imperfections, perfect contrition, asking for mercy, never despairing and desiring to belong to God. All these are necessary for us to truly become sharers in the inheritance of Christ.
As you go out to proclaim God’s kingdom, may you not be among those who will jeer at him and sneer at him in mockery and hypocrisy, but those who will truly make their procession a spiritual exercise and thus be enlisted into the kingdom of Christ forever and ever, amen.
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