Hi everyone, here's my homily for the feast of OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE - Sunday, November 22, 2014. The readings for today's Mass can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/112314.cfm . Thanks as always for reading, commenting, and sharing this blog on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit... and for your comments and feedback. Thanks and God Bless - Fr. Jim
For you listeners of Lino Rulli’s "The Catholic Guy Show" this would be a perfect story for his "What’s up with that segment" that he plays when I’m on the air, coming from NBC News:
Do people really need a reminder that when going on a job interview that you shouldn’t show up drunk, stab the potential employer – and then leave the completed application (with your name and address) behind for the police? You would think that such things we would know instinctively. Those are things that you shouldn’t have to be taught in a career counseling course or a suggestion posted on Monster.com. It’s basic common sense. But evidently, we as human beings still need reminders of even obvious things. (Today’s Public Service Announcement: Don’t touch a boiling pot of water with your bare hands... it will burn) Really? When reading the warnings on appliances, it's really comical how specific they are in the "do nots" they list. Perhaps the legal system has something to do with this.
In reading today’s Gospel, aren't the points that Jesus is making somewhat obvious? As we celebrate this feast of "Christ the King," we hear very familiar directives. His expectations of us as members of his Kingdom seem fairly obvious: Take care of the poor, the sick, the stranger, the imprisoned – even people who don’t identify themselves as Christian will often characterize those actions as a "Christian" thing to do. And when we’re found not doing these things, not doing what Jesus expects us to, just look at how quickly some individuals (rightly by the way) will point out the hypocrisy when someone claims to be a devout Christian and ignores the poor or takes care of themselves to a luxurious extreme.
On the flip side, and from a more positive perspective, there have been numerous stories showing how the Catholic Church is widely seen as the single largest charitable organization in the world - and when you include our brothers and sisters of other Christian denominations - that gap would grow considerably. That goes from everything from providing health care, education, shelter, chaplaincies, rushing into lands and areas suffering devastation from natural disasters. Even last month, as people panicked over the Ebola virus, most people overlooked that the first Americans who were infected were a part of missionary teams doing medical care in those African regions that were hardest hit by the virus.
All of this isn’t meant for us to congratulate ourselves and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. I think for a lot of us, we can fall into the trap of thinking that it’s like throwing a Yankee shirt on and thinking I’m part of a winning team because I do that (when in reality I’d be arrested just walking on the field during a game!) We’re not "covered" because we're a Christian and belong to the Church. Yes, the Church and Christians around the world do good things for people who are suffering. But the question remains, are we personally doing something to serve in the name of Christ?
Jesus is pretty explicit here. Saying that at the end of time, the judgment of our lives is simply going to be centered around one question. The question isn’t a surprise. It will be pretty obvious to us. And even with the obviousness of it, even though we shouldn’t need these reminders, he goes ahead and reminds us once again – that it won’t be our GPA, our awards, how many Facebook friends, or how much fun did we have in life that will matter.
It will simply be what have we done for Christ and our neighbor? What did you do for Christ? Are you prepared to answer that question right now?
He begs us not simply to do that to be "good people" or to be "good ambassadors" as members of His Kingdom. He is telling us that the secret to eternal happiness begins right here and now, in this life - when we live selflessly, sacrificially for one another - seeing one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. In this self-giving, self-forgetting love, we begin to reverse what is the core of the "original sin" - self-centeredness, self-indulgence, self-sufficiency which has been a problem for every human being since Adam and Eve left that garden. What things are we spoiling ourselves with while our brothers and sisters are hurting and going without?
It’s true, some of the greatest of Saints (like St. Francis of Assisi and please God, soon-to-be Saints like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta) became such because they responded to this Gospel in such radical ways the entire world admired their example and witness (while they still doubted whether they were doing enough) But that doesn’t mean you have to run to your ATM empty your bank account, drop out of school, sell everything and give it to the poor. With all the gifts, all the talents, all the opportunities we’ve been blessed with here and now, the question is how will we allow that question to shape our present, and our future: what are we doing for Christ and our neighbor. It's a moment by moment decision.
How is your dorm rooms, your class rooms, your work places, your families, your tables in the cafeteria different because of your response to His command? How are we practicing charitable living not simply dropping off groceries to a food drive or a Toy for an underpriveleged child at Christmas a few times a year.
Do you feel the tension? It's a tension built on what we want to do and what we should do. It's felt at those times when we feel we should be somewhere else, doing something else, and this is in response to the call on our lives that we read about in the Gospel. Tension here is a good thing for it shapes us into the person God wants us to be. Because truth be told, Jesus Christ our King’s expectations are difficult, are challenging to respond to. But at the same time, they are also incredibly obvious to us. And we can never say we didn’t know what He expects of us.