FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE SOLMENITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE, November 20, 2022:
Today we bring our Church year to an end with this Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This always initially strikes me as an odd feast for Americans. After all, our national identity begins in the rejection of royalty. We revere the voice of the people above the Divine Right of Kings and Queens. But, I think we can make some sense of this feast, even in our own American context, by looking at perhaps our nation’s greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.
In April 1865, the slain body of President Lincoln lay in state for a few hours in Cleveland, Ohio on its final journey from the nation’s capital to Springfield, Illinois. In the long line of people filing by to pay respects to the President was a poor black woman and her little son. When the two reached Lincoln’s body, the woman lifted her son and said to him in a hushed voice, “Son, you take a long, long look at him. That man died for you.”
What was said of Lincoln on that day, can be said in a profoundly deeper way about Jesus as our King. We struggle with the earthly notion of royalty that grants someone sovereign power simply because they were born into the right family. We believe, after all, that you can achieve any height if you work hard enough. Now, Jesus is our King because of who He is – the Son of God. But, He is also our King because of what He did – He died for us; He redeemed each and every one of us; His death on the cross reunited each one of us with God and made us subjects of His Divine Kingdom. So, we take a long, long look at Him. Because, that Man died for us.
And this is the point of our Gospel today. If we were celebrating an earthly understanding of Kingship with its power and triumphant reign, we might instead think of the passage where Jesus enters Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, the people throwing palm branches at His feet and crying out, “Hosanna to the King of Israel!” But, instead, we are given Jesus in His final moments on the Cross where He has gone to die for our sins. We are reminded that our King ushers in a reign that is not based on domination, but instead it is based on service and love and compassion. Or as we will hear in the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer today, Jesus comes to bring us “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.” The ultimate sign of Jesus as our King is not to be found with Him seated high on a throne, but rather to be seen with Him lifted high on the Cross. It is there that He reigns.
A number of years ago, divers discovered a 400 year old Spanish shipwreck buried in water off the coast of Northern Ireland. Among the treasures they found on that ship was a gold wedding ring. Etched into the band was a hand holding a heart and the words: “I have given myself completely to you. I have nothing more to give you.” Those same words could just as well be the words of Christ our King who united Himself with us on the Cross so that we might be ushered into His Kingdom. “I have given myself to you totally. There is nothing more to give to you.”
And we remember today, that Jesus wants to be an inspiring king. He wants us to look at Him; to see how selfless and self-giving He is and for our response to be one of imitation. We should all want to be like our Great King. We should all strive to live up to those same words, “I have given myself totally” – given in service to our brothers and sisters; given in love to our family and friends; given in charity to the neediest among us; given in prayer to those who are lonely and neglected. Let us be like our King. Let us be like Jesus. Let us be defined not by our last name, or where we were born, or how much power or authority we hold over others – let us be defined by these same characteristics of the Kingdom: let us be as kind and loving and joyful and compassionate and forgiving as our King.
Take a long, long look at him. He died for you. My friends, may Christ always reign in our hearts and in our lives as our King; and let remain faithful servants of His reign and help to usher forth His “kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love, and peace.”
May the Lord give you peace.
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