Homily: Christ the King

Cycle C 34th Sunday Christ the King.
2 Samuel 5: 1-3; Colossians 1: 12-20; Luke 23:35 – 43.
In the year 200AD Jingo, the Empress of Japan, invaded Korea. Following the defeat, the Korean king placed valuable treasures before the empress and promised to pay “homage and send tribute until the sun no longer rises in the East, but comes from the West; until the courses of the rivers turn backwards and the river pebbles ascend and become stars in Heaven”.

When Queen Sheba visited King Solomon, she crossed the Sahara desert into Israel with more than 797 camels, donkeys and mules too numerous to count. She gave the king 120 talents of gold, very great store of spices and precious stones. The value of the gold alone, which she gave to King Solomon, was of great worth. (1 Kings 10:2-5) It was customary, in the ancient world, to place great treasures and gifts before the emperors and kings to please them.
When the Magi heard about the birth of a king for the Jews they set out with royal offerings- Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. After 33 years, the same king stood elevated on the cross with the inscription INRI, (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum - "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews") By placing this title Pilate had  made an involuntary, but historical proclamation  that Jesus is the King not only of the Jews but of the Universe.  Many a time such involuntary proclamations of Jesus’ Kingship are heard from unbelievers. The soldiers made a crown of long, sharp thorns and put it on his head, and they put a royal purple robe on him, and shouted, "Hail! King of the Jews!"(John 19)
Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus replied, "You have said it." (Luke 23:3).
"You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (Jn 18:37)

This king; the king of the Jews, the King of the Universe, the king of the living and the dead  was on the cross on
Mount  Calvary  bestowing his gifts on his people.
The Feast of Christ the King was established nearly 85 years ago by Pope Pius XI. After the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, the inhuman atrocities and untold misery, made people lose their hope and faith in the just world. Then, the Pope reasserted with the proclamation of the Feast of Christ the King, that in spite of wars and insurrections, Jesus remains the King of all history, all time, all creation and of the entire universe. In 1969, Pope Paul VI gave the celebration a new title, and he assigned to it the highest rank, that of "Solemnity".
On the cross, Jesus shows himself as a king who distributes his gifts most generously.
Jesus distributes pardon around: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). Jesus’ mission on earth was to offer God’s forgiveness.  As against the traditional concept of God, as a God of revenge, as a God of punishment, as a God who made demands on his people; Jesus presented God as a loving and merciful father.  God is like the shepherd who rejoiced on finding the lost sheep; God is like the father who ordered a feast upon the return of the prodigal son. Jesus went about healing the sick, proclaiming the mercy of God and inviting people to repent. He showed great generosity in offering pardon to the sinners. This mission He continued till the last moments on the cross.
Secondly, Jesus grants heaven to a thief just for the asking: “I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Lk 23:43)The first person to formally recognize Jesus as king was a condemned criminal.  He captured the Lord's heart with his humble request: “Jesus remember me when you come in your kingly power.” When the whole crowd at the foot of the cross ridiculed Jesus, he was able to grasp the real meaning of Jesus’ kingship. His faith deepened in the dark moments when Jesus’ divinity became obscured. 
In life, we have to make our choice. We could be like the soldiers who mocked Jesus. [Lk. 23:36] We could be like the criminal on the cross who kept deriding Jesus. [Lk. 23:39] Or we could be like the repentant thief who put his trust in Jesus and asked Jesus “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The choice is ours!
Thirdly, Jesus shares His mother’s love with the whole mankind: “This is your mother!” (Jn 19:26). The only person who was with Jesus with unrelenting support was His mother. Throughout His life Jesus experienced her love, concern and protection. Whenever Jesus’ life was threatened she was able to make crucial decisions to save Him. She fled with the infant Jesus from Jerusalem; when the boy Jesus went missing she undertook the dangerous journey back to Jerusalem to find Him; she followed Him in His mission and finally she traversed the way of the cross to Calvary and stood at His feet. So, Jesus gives this loving, caring and protective mother to be the mother of His Church.
No earthly king has been so magnanimous with his gifts, as Jesus was on the day of His death on the cross. We must receive His gifts humbly and gratefully.
When we think of kings, we often think of kingdoms. Jesus has a kingdom on earth, a kingdom that comprises all the continents. That Global Kingdom is the Church. We are all members of it.  Through nearly 2000 years of the Church's existence, we know with great certainty that our kingdom is not of this world; it not a temporal power. Even though temporal powers have tried to annihilate the Church through various means, it has always risen with greater strength. Neither the sword of the emperors, nor the guillotine, nor the infidelity of its members was able to disintegrate it, because at its head stands the King.
If Pilot involuntarily declared Jesus as the King of Jews; today, we should voluntarily announce Jesus as our King; and as loyal members of his kingdom fight for human rights, human dignity and true freedom.


Anecdotes for sunday. 

Anecdote 1) A king once fell inlove with a poor girl. At first, he thought of simply bringing her to the palace and marrying her; but he realized this wouldn't work since she'd soon realize the immense difference in their backgrounds and not be happy. After much reflection, he decided to renounce his kingdom and go and live near her so that she would realize how deeply he loved her. Shocking one and all, he left the palace. -Philosopher Kierkegaard

Anecdote 2) Moloch is the ancient name of the god who seeks human sacrifice. It was to him that ancient pagans sacrificed human lives, even the lives of their own children. It is to Moloch that some people even today seek to build themselves up and promote their interests by destroying those around them. There are those who put others down and even destroy the careers of others in order to advance up the ladder of corporate power structures. Lust isn’t a vice that is confined to sexual exploitation – lust for power is likewise a false god that can exert power and control over us as well. Modern day Moloch worshippers determine to do whatever is necessary at all costs, even at the cost of human sacrifice, in order to advance themselves. That, too, is something to think about on this Christ the King Sunday.

Anecdote 3) Let No Man Presume: Alexander McClaren has observed that on Calvary there were two thieves crucified with Jesus. One thief was saved that no man need despair, but only one, that no man might presume. It's the last Sunday of the church year. If there were one last sermon to preach, one last time to tell the story, what would you choose? Or better still, what will the answer be when the story ends? The king waits.
    Crown him with many crowns,
    The Lamb upon his throne;
    Hark how the heavenly anthem drowns
    All music but its own.
A wake, my soul, and sing
Of him who died for thee,
And hail him as thy matchless king
Through all eternity.
 -(Theodore F. Schneider, Until the King Comes, CSS Publishing Company )

Anecdote 4) Long live Christ the King! Blessed Miguel Pro of Mexico, a priest of the Society of Jesus, lived during a very trying time for the Mexican people. The Catholic Church was terribly persecuted. A popular uprising of Catholic laymen called the Cristeros rose to the occasion to free the Church from oppression. Blessed Miguel Pro died as a martyr, executed by a firing squad of federal soldiers on November 23, 1927. As he stood, waiting for the shots that would end his earthly life and begin a new life in the kingdom of Heaven, he forgave his executioners, and spreading out his arms in the form of a cross he cried out “Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!” (Fr. James Farfaglia)

Anecdote 5) On His Majesty’s Service: Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was arrested and brought before the Roman authorities. He was told if he cursed Christ, he would be released. He replied, "Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king Jesus Christ who saved me?" The Roman officer replied, "Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt." But Polycarp said, "You threaten a fire that burns for an hour, and after a while is quenched; for you are ignorant of the judgment to come and of everlasting punishment reserved for the ungodly. Do what you wish."