20/21 November 2021

posted 29 Nov 2021, 02:22 by Parish Office

Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year B (20 & 21/11/21)

“Jesus Christ is the faithful witness … the Ruler of the kings of the earth” – so said the second reading. If only all rulers took notice of Him! If only we took notice of Him completely as well!

There are now at least two countries where either the local or national government have said that priests are obliged to report to the authorities certain crimes that they hear of in confession. In one of these countries, a bishop basically said to the ruler of the country, “Buzz off! You’ve overstepped the mark. Christ rules the Church, not you.” The ruler wasn’t very pleased, but the bishop was right. In this country, various kings in times past wanted to have more control over the Church. It was part of the reason for the martyrdom of St Thomas Beckett. King Henry VIII came up with a solution: he declared himself in charge of the Church in England, and anyone who disagreed with it had to face the wrath of the king. He also did away with St Thomas Beckett’s shrine and feast-day – an interesting piece of symbolism.

A similar thing happens today in other parts of the world. In China, the communist authorities, in their desire to control religion, have outlawed the Catholic Church, but also created something similar to the Catholic Church that reports to them, called the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. It is like the Catholic Church: it has clergy and they celebrate Mass and so on, but it is run and organised by the state, by people who are not clergy and sometimes not even baptised.

During the English Reformation, there were some clergy who in public accepted the new regime, whilst quietly also ministered as Catholic priests: they used Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer in church, but then secretly also said Mass for a select few as well. In the same way today in China, there are those clergy who are both, in public, members of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, and also in full communion with the Catholic Church, what is sometimes referred to as the “Underground Church”. In the English Reformation, there were some laity who were referred to as “Church Papists”. In order to avoid hefty fines, they, usually men, would turn up at Anglican services when they had to and stay in the porch, and then secretly at home one of their servants, who was actually a Catholic priest, would say Mass for the family and other people who were “in the know”. A similar

thing happens in China, where people who attend the Masses of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association also secretly find their way to Masses celebrated by the Underground Church.

These are forms of persecution and ways of responding to it, and we can find the same thing happening in our own lives too. Whilst we may look negatively on how certain rulers of countries behave or have behaved, what about our own souls, where we are the “rulers” who make the decisions? So often, we’re not in the situation of having completely rejected Christ and installed ourselves as absolute sovereign, neither do we allow Christ to be seated permanently on the throne; instead, we just allow Him to reign sometimes. At other times, we do our own thing instead. Of course, we can at times find ourselves in difficult situations, and maybe then we conform to the prevailing expectations a bit more than we should – like the “Church Papists” turning up for Anglican services to avoid being fined, and then going back home for Mass afterwards.

“Jesus Christ is the faithful witness … the Ruler of the kings of the earth” – so said the second reading. If only all rulers took notice of Him! If only we took notice of Him completely as well!