34TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME YEAR C HOMILY 2022
CHRIST THE KING
Lk 23.35-43 Col 1.12-20 2Sam 5.1-3
The last thing we need is to celebrate a triumphalistic Church, especially at a time when we, as a Church, have been through so much self-examination and criticism, much of it justified, in recent times. The title Christ the King of the Universe just seems a bit stretched, when there’s nothing much out there, except for black holes and the infinity of an expanding galaxies and a limitless universe. It’s all a bit mind-boggling when you thing about it! And there are still no confirmed reports of Artificial Intelligence, as it is called, much as some wish to believe there are aliens out there, and in here, for that matter. (The speculation just goes on, but with no substantiating evidence, a bit like the orange egomaniac’s semi, if not totally incoherent and fallacious rantings!)
What you and I need to be concerned about is the here and now of our present reality, where we live in a fragile world, fraught with anxiety, uncertainty and conflict. When Pius XI decreed Christ the King as a Feast Day for the Universal Church in 1925, it was at a time of recovery and relief, after the horrific devastation and loss of life in the largely futile First World War, described then hopefully as the “War to end all wars”, famous last words, almost farcical, when we consider the history of the 20th Century and beyond!!
The flappers were out, the Charlston was the go, and good times were to be had by all! But not for long. The Wall St crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression made life more difficult for many in the western world, and the dark and evil forces of Fascism, Nazism and anti-Semitism erupted, to remind us of the darker side of human nature, and the way in which we can easily enough be fooled into thinking that our problems are caused by others, not ourselves. Scapegoating has been a long-term form of evading responsibility for our own mistakes and misconceptions in life.
Claude Mostowik MSC’s take is worth quoting: “Whilst this solemnity was proclaimed, meaning to upend imperialistic visions of leadership of people such as Mussolini, Hitler and others, it is still important to understand the impulses of empire in people like Putin, Erdogan, Orban… and other similar leaders whose impulses are about domination and control rather than transformation, fraternity and sorority. Any attempt to make Jesus a supporter of empire or prosperity Gospel teaching is challenged. Every institution that is more concerned with appearance rather than with right or more concerned about survival and maintenance rather than care for God’s people and Mother Earth is critiqued.. May we become more merciful, more loving and ready to build God’s Kingdom here and now.”
And today’s Gospel is a very strange one for what, at first sight, seems to have originally been a triumphant celebration. Pope Francis is very much one for proclaiming a penitential and servant Church, always in need of reform and moving forward with the People of God in a way which embraces all inclusively, and accepts the reality of sin and evil, with a need to confront it individually, and as Church.
Jesus’ message of love is not one of comfort, nor escape from the harsh realities of life, the crosses which we all face, and is about our need to face up to those crosses in a far from ideal world, with a little help from our friends (as the saying goes, from Ringo!), and to share the love with others.
Just reflecting on the last few weeks, where I took off at short notice to be with close friends of nearly 40 years, in Toronto, Canada, to celebrate the funeral of Ted, who died prematurely, at 67, and whom I had first met after Mass one Sunday morning in Ottawa, in late 1982. I had married him to Ruth in October 1983 and then their daughter Anna, in August this year, and baptized their son Joe in 1985. Fortunately, Ted was able to walk Anna down the grass aisle with Ruth, though well aware that he was suffering from a terminal cancer at the time. He’d gone off the chemotherapy to be well enough to get through the occasion happily, which he did well.
It was moving to view the video of the occasion, after I had celebrated his funeral last week, to accept how, 3 months later, he would no longer be with us. It seemed surreal, and so sad and unfair, a life cut short too soon, yet a reminder to all of us, how temporal life is, and how we have to face our own mortality. Then, this is not to forget the challenge for all of us to live life and our faith as well as we can, while we can, as my friend Ted certainly did. The same can be said for did Sister Mary Dennett, whom we farewelled the week before, and our friend and parishioner Noel Dunne, whose funeral was here this week.
Back to the Gospel, with Jesus hanging on the cross, between the 2 presumed criminals either side, we have him offering the promise of paradise to the one who acknowledges Jesus as the good and just man, who has done no wrong, and yet is experiencing excruciating punishment for no good reason, apart from being a moral threat to the religious authorities, whom he has confronted and with whom he has clashed harshly, over the relatively short course of his public ministry of 3 years or so, it is presumed. He is facing the mortality of death in his own human existence, and yet promises immortality in the life to come, and enduring presence with us.
In this, Jesus is not downplaying the significance of living life to the full, as he has constantly demonstrated in his public ministry, proclaiming a kingdom of justice, love and peace in this life and this world, as much as in the life to come, in the kingdom of light, happiness and peace, in eternity, with the God of life and love he reveals
Meanwhile, our challenge is ongoing, to build that Kingdom, to which we ultimately aspire. Jesus proclaims in our lives and our world here and now, albeit in difficult times! His message endures, and his Kingdom is real.
As I said at our Parish Centenary Mass, whatever happens, the Gospel Good News of Jesus remains universal and the same, and his Law of Love – of God, neighbour and self! So let us continue to give thanks and pray together, with determination, faith and good example.
john hannon 20th November 2022