YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING
HOMILY THEME: “When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’” (Luke 21:5-6)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
HOMILY: Luke 21:5-19
Lisa caught me first thing in the morning with her desperation. “I need prayers for Smudge. He’s been in a tree for four days and won’t come down.” “Who’s Smudge?” I inquired of the mournful ER clerk. “He’s my two-year-old black cat who’s never been out of the house before, and when he escaped a few days ago, a dog chased him up a tree. Now he won’t come down. Do you have a prayer for a cat stuck in a tree?” I was sure Smudge would come down when hunger overtook him, but Lisa remained unconvinced.
That evening I remembered my promise of prayer for Lisa and Smudge. Surprisingly, in the quiet I found myself identifying less with Lisa than with the terrified cat, stuck high up a tree in response to the threat of a neighbor dog, Smudge now alone and probably starving. It occurred to me that, like Smudge, I too was feeling very much up a tree of sorts. While a barking dog had been the catalyst for Smudge’s hasty upward retreat, ongoing revelations of crimes and scandals within the Catholic Church have driven me to seek refuge in a place above the fray—somewhere nearer heaven, farther from earth. And I suspected that many other Catholics feel likewise.
In today’s gospel passage, we hear very disturbing words: “When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’” (Luke 21:5-6)
It seems that Jesus is speaking these very words to us today as we watch the church fade from former days of glory into a time of diminishment. Smudge the cat scampered up a tree to escape a less-than-neighborly dog; I’ve taken refuge in the same tree, I think, seeking refuge from bad news and challenging times. But it would be shortsighted to remain quivering on a tree limb for long, because I believe there is something more happening within the church. To quote American theologian Charles West, “We turn to God when our foundations are shaking, only to find that it is God who is shaking them.”
In truth, as the structure of the church is shaken by the volcanic issues of the day, many of its individual foundation stones, seemingly ordinary people like you and me, are gaining in strength as we cling to Jesus, our anchor and our hope. In these tumultuous times, it becomes clearer that God again chooses to reside more in human flesh than in brick or mortar. This is where the church began; this is how the church began. I believe that in our own time God is causing his church to be renewed in spirit as the temple built by human hands seems to diminish while God’s handiwork shines brighter.
After several days of promised prayer for Smudge the cat, who remained steadfast in that tree for five days, Lisa told me he finally came down, meowing loudly for food and drink. Me: I’m thinking of Charles West’s words—“We turn to God when our foundations are shaking, only to find that it is God who is shaking them.” If that’s true, I’d better quit my tree limb for solid ground.