Sunday, November 26, 2006

Year B-Vespers-Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Feast of Christ the King

Reading: Revelation 1,5-8

Glory and power forever and ever to him "who loves us and has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father", writes St. John in the Apocalypse. Just what does it mean to be priests? Before answering this question directly it is important to realize that there is only one priesthood, the priesthood of Jesus Christ. We participate in this priesthood through our baptism. Hence, the ministerial, or ordained, priesthood is at the service of the one priesthood of all believers. To answer the question directly, priests offer sacrifice. Therefore, I urge you my dear brothers and sisters, to use the words of St. Paul, "to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship" (Rom 12,1). How do we make ourselves sacrifices to God, the Almighty Father? First, it is only through participation in the sacrifice of Christ that our offering is in any way acceptable to God. Second, we offer our bodies as living sacrifices by not being conformed to this age, but by being transformed by the renewal of our minds in order that we may discern what is God’s will, what is good and pleasing and perfect (Rom 12,2). We are transformed by what we do. In turn, what we do is informed by what we believe and what we believe in are the values of God’s Kingdom taught to us by Christ, our King.

There is nothing more countercultural in our day, or any age, than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The values of God’s kingdom are given us very clearly by Christ in the beatitudes (Matt 5,2-12) and the two Great Commandments (Lk 10,25-38). These two commandments are to love God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. Who is our neighbor? Just as Cain was to be his brother’s keeper, our neighbor is every other human being, most especially those with whom we would typically have the least to do: the widow, the orphan, the person suffering from HIV or full-blown AIDS, the starving, the drug addicted, and the mentally ill cast out into the street. Christ the King tells us elsewhere in the Apocalypse that he stands at the door and knocks (Rev 3,20). When we answer the door, who do we see? Do we see the haloed and glowing figure of what can best be described as Jesus of Norway? No, when we answer the door at which Jesus Christ knocks, we see him in his distressing disguise as a hungry, thirsty, sick, naked, and imprisoned human being. It is through his distressing disguise that our Lord makes his royal power known. It is in the hungry person we not only feed, but with whom we break bread, that Christ enters our house and dines with us.

If our Eucharist is to have meaning, it must lead us to make of ourselves priestly people in and through our everyday sacrifices. If we fail to do this Eucharist becomes an empty gesture, a meaningless ritual in which participate an hour so each week. God used the prophets to chastise Israel for scrupulously observing the ritual law, but neglecting the widow, the orphan, and the stranger among them. If we are truly to belong to this priestly kingdom we must live in such a way that each day we do our little bit to bring about God’s reign on earth. Because his kingdom is not of this world, God’s reign cannot be made to happen through mere political power, but through humble acts of generosity, the giving our time, talents, and wealth for the building up of God’s Kingdom, by working toward a more just and equitable society, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our King, Jesus Christ.

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