Christ The King
Feast of Christ the King 2019
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: November 24, 2019
What will the world look like in the future? Many people write books or articles or give talks with predictions about what the world will look like in the future. Recently I saw a notice for a book called, What is the future of Christianity? We like to look ahead to try to see what to expect.
What will the world be like in the future? What will Christianity look like in the future? What will the Catholic Church be like in the future? It is interesting to think about these future possibilities. But, we are pretty poor in predicting what things will be like in the future. We cannot see very well the unexpected turns and events and changes that we will face.
A more useful reflection is “What type of Church is needed in the future?” “What is the mission of the Church?” What Church is needed, what type of Christians do we need to become?
On this Feast of Christ the King, we are presented with the Gospel account of the Crucifixion of Jesus from Luke’s Gospel. On that Cross we are given two completely different visions of success.
In the Cross we see the full power and force of the Roman Empire. Wealth and military force that allowed them to dominate others, especially the weak and poor. It reflects the vision our world usually embraces.
Our world sees success in terms of wealth, worldly power. It is found in great powers and empires. It is achieved by violence, military force, domination of others. It is self serving.
But God is not found in that show of force and dominance. God’s power is seen in the helpless Jesus, suffering and dying on the Cross. Jesus was not wealthy, powerful, successful in the eyes of the world. He died helpless on a cross being ridiculed even by a lowly criminal beside him.
In history, the Church, we Christians, are constantly tempted to strive for worldly power, wealth, success, influence. We desire to be important in the eyes of the world. But, Jesus gave us an entirely different vision on that Cross. Not self serving but self giving.
True power and strength for the sake of the world is not found in violence, in military force, in wealth, in an empire that dominates. The Church is not called to be successful or important in the world, nor to be an empire that dominates. Like Jesus, our mission is to serve the world in the humble offering of our lives.
We need to ask ourselves as Christians, “what kind of Church will be faithful to the Gospel, what kind of Church reflects this vision of Jesus on the Cross?” This is the Church that our world needs. I want to give a list of some of the things that this Church will be called to be today.
Therefore, it is what you and I as Christians need to be.
- The Church needs to be an instrument of peace. To work for harmony between peoples, in particular between people of different religions. It is why Pope Francis often speaks about the need for inter-religious dialogue. He is presently visiting Thailand. A country that has very few Catholics, primarily a Buddhist nation. He is there giving us a sign of the call of the Catholic Church to be a leader in working for harmony between different religions and peoples. We are fundamentally one human family. We are to be instruments of peace.
- The Church needs to work for the common good within society. We are not to focus on our own needs, but what is the good for all people. This means we are to have a special concern for the poor and needy among us. We are to work for the common good.
- The Church needs to embrace simplicity and to have a deep care for our common home in
creation. We need to embrace a simplicity of life that cares for all creation.
- The Church must embrace a non-violent way of being. We need to reject violence, force,
resentment. This includes in the words we use against others. We need to be people who are
non-violent in relating to one another.
Each of you could add to this list of what the Church needs to be today. Perhaps take some time to add to this list, what kind of Church is needed today?
What will the Church be like in the future? I cannot give you a very accurate picture of that
future. But, we can have a clear picture of what the Church needs to be in the future. On the Feast of Christ the King, we are presented with the vision of the Cross.
The Church is not to be worried about being successful in the eyes of the world, it is not about being wealthy, powerful, influential. Jesus served humanity and the world most when he died helpless on the Cross. Our Church will offer most when we offer our lives not for our success, but to humbly serve. This will mean being a church that is an instrument of peace, working for harmony between peoples, a church that works for the common good within society, a church that embraces a simplicity of life and cares for creation, a church that embraces a non-violent way of life.
This is the Christianity that will be faithful to the Gospel.
This is the Church that we need to be for the sake of the world.
Feast of Christ The King 2018
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: November 25, 2018
This Feast of Christ the King makes no sense. Does this image reflect Jesus of the Gospel?
When we think of a King we think of a great powerful figure, with servants submissively taking care of all his needs. Of people being very careful not to do anything to disturb the king who would be able to punish them harshly. A king is one who is served by others and who has power over others.
But, then we hear the gospel that the Church gives us for this Feast of Christ the King. We see Christ being dragged as a prisoner before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea. He stands before Pilate as a weak, helpless figure. Being interrogated and in a sense ridiculed. This Christ is not one being served, but rather one giving his life to serve others.
What a contrast, the great over powering dominance of the Roman Empire and the seemingly weak and small presence of this non-violent figure.
The vision of leadership that God our Creator presents versus the vision of leadership that is so often found in our world. A power that serves versus a power that crushes.
Jesus says, “I came to testify to the truth.” The power of God is rooted in truth. The powerful in our world often distort the truth for their benefit or ignore the truth when it is not convenient. Just look at how so many refuse to acknowledge the reality of climate change or to do anything about it because it does not seem convenient to our present lifestyle.
The Church has been most faithful to its mission when it has spoken the truth to the powerful, spoke out on behalf of the voiceless, the weak, the poor. This made the Church a threat to rulers, dictators, corrupt leaders, throughout history.
Archbishop Oscar Romero was canonized a saint this year. He was Archbishop in El Salvador back in the 1970’s. Here a small group of the wealthy controlled everything and oppressed the majority who were poor. They used threats and violence to put down any opposition, including priests and religious. Archbishop Romero began to speak out, to walk with the poor and oppressed. Soon he also faced threats, to make him be quiet. But he continued to speak truth to those in power. Finally, while celebrating Mass one morning, an assassin entered and shot him at the altar. Here was a leader following in the footsteps of Christ the King.
This Feast of Christ the King is important because our world needs this vision of leadership and power. Beginning with the Church, which is not to be powerful, influential, rich, successful. In fact, when we let go of power, influence, wealth, winning and instead live the humble service of Christ the King, then the Church can offer something truly good and valuable to our world.
In Jesus God offers us a completely different vision of leadership and authority. Not power over others, but power for others. Not self serving, but serving of others.
Each one of us needs to follow in the footsteps of Christ the King in our lives. People of humble service, refusing to compromise on the truth even when it is not convenient, not expecting others to serve us but looking at how I can serve others.
So, this Feast of Christ the King makes sense, it is not that Christ is like an earthly king or ruler, but that all earthly rulers need to become like Christ in humble service.
Feast of Christ the King – Year A
Fr. David Reitzel
Preached: Nov 26, 2017
Today the Church marks the end of the liturgical year. And she uses this as an opportunity to remind us of the end of all things. Our reading tell us of our last days here on earth as we line up for our Final Judgment. And not only do the readings remind us of the end, but so too does the environment around us. The Church could have chosen any day to be the end of the liturgical year. But she settled on today, at the end of November, and I think they had good reason.
If we look outside we see that it is fall, and this season more than any other reminds of the impermanence of this world. The trees that once were full with leaves are now bare, only skeletons of their former self. The sun is appearing less and less, and the rays that it does shed are often made grey by the ever frequent low lying clouds. And finally the warmth that we used to feel outside is now replaced with the damp cold that causes us to shiver. Nature looks as if she is dying, passing away, and this together with the end of the liturgical year reminds us that one day all things on earth will come to an end.
But the Church doesn’t just want to leave us there. It would be quite hopeless if all we thought about was the inevitable end of all things. No, while the Church choses today to mark the end of the liturgical year she has also chosen today to celibate the feast of Christ the King, a feast particularly special for us in Hamilton since our cathedral is named after it.
The Church wants us to remember that our outlook is always beyond this world, to a kingdom that will never pass away, whose king is Christ Jesus. You and I are not made for this earth, no one is, we are citizens of heaven, and we are only passing through this foreign land.
We need to be reminded of this because we sometimes forget that we are on the road to somewhere else. As we spend year after year here, as we invest time and money into building up the things of earth, we can sometimes be lulled into a sense that this will last forever. And it is when that happens that we need to stop and remind ourselves that our King awaits us in another place.
In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches us that when this world in fact does come to an end, we will be called by our king. He will return from heaven and gather all peoples to himself. He will then judge between the sheep and the goats, the good and the bad, the citizens of heaven and the citizens of earth. But what will he use to judge between these two groups?
On that day, will he look at the money we earned while here on earth, the fame we had, the property we possessed? No, on the last day, none of that will be counted. That all belongs to the kingdom of earth, which is passing away. On the last day he will say, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. Naked and you clothed me, sick and in prisoned and you visited me.” Jesus will judge our citizenship based on what we did for him. And this makes sense. We prove our loyalty to our king by what we do for him. We show him that our citizenship is in heaven by working for the king of heaven.
However the catch is that like any good king, Christ considers himself so united to his subjects that a good deed done to one is a good deed done to him.
One person who knew this well was Mother Teresa. Once when a person wanted to know from where she got her energy to serve the poorest of the poor, she took that persons hand and pointed to his fingers one by one saying, “you did it to me”. Mother Teresa was able to see Christ so clearly in all she met that when she saw someone in need she couldn’t help but come to their aid, for she saw Christ looking at her saying, “help”.
Today at the end of the liturgical year, on the feast of Christ the King, we need to remind ourselves that this world is passing away. It will come to an end. But we should not be disturbed or despair, because we also know that we are not meant for this world. We are citizens of heaven with Christ as our king. But we need to prove our citizenship by what we do for Christ in others.
So today think of an act of love, a form of charity that you have been putting off. Do you know anyone in the hospital or a nursing home? Have you sees someone hungry for food or maybe hungry for affection? You don’t need to travel to the ends of the earth to find someone in need, they are beside you, they live in your home, and they walk past your house every day. Help them, and on the last day when you stand before Jesus sitting on his thrown, he can say, “you did it to me.”