21st/22nd November 2020

posted 23 Nov 2020, 02:19 by Parish Office

Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year A (22/11/20)

Think of someone like Saul, the great persecutor of Christians. He had a good knowledge of his faith, so he thought. He had zeal for God’s cause. And putting two and two together, that meant that you had to get rid of Christianity. Perhaps if you had tried debating with him, he could have used the Scriptures against you. He was so sure that he was right, and it must have been such a crushing defeat when Christ blinded him on the road to Damascus. But note, Christ does not say to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting the Church” – of course, he was persecuting the Church, trying to get rid of it. Instead, Christ says, “why are you persecuting me?” To persecute the Church of Christ is to persecute Christ, to try in vain to separate the Lord of the Universe from His People.

So there is a profound link between Christ and the people of His Church, the baptised. But we also know that if Christ is Lord of the Universe, then all people are His. We also know that He is present in a particular way in the poor, those who are marginalised, the suffering, the weak, those whose bodies are far from perfect, those who are afflicted with disease and so on. We have to sometimes overcome our prejudices. When we are young children, we are read (“red”) and we watch children’s stories, where it is easy to tell who the good people are and who are the baddies. But in real life it is not always so easy. We can’t think that the more physically perfect you are, the better a person you must be. Sometimes the opposite is true. Sometimes it is the people with more profound disabilities who reveal to us the joy of life and a way of being that is simple, direct, without attempts to deceive others or to cause others harm. They are the defenceless ones who need our protection.

So we are to come to the aid of those in need as a way of spreading Christ’s kingdom. But it’s not always easy. St Vincent de Paul said that we should not judge the poor by their outward appearance, and in effect he said that we shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t have perfect middle-class manners. Remember, we are not in the world of children’s books, where the good people are beautiful to look at and are properly mannered, and the evil people are ugly and carry poisoned apples. Sometimes, in this world, it’s the ones you least suspect who turn out to be the rotten apples. Appearances can be deceptive.

Talking of appearances, what is the crux of the message of the Last Judgement? What we do to others, we do to Christ. Some people may not look very Christ-like; but what we do to them we do to Him. And also, what we don’t do, we do to Him. Sins of omission, where we fail to do a good act, can be just as bad, or worse, than sins of commission, where we do a bad act: neglect of the hungry and thirsty; neglect of the stranger; neglect of those who are naked, sick or in prison. By these sins of neglect, we sin against Christ! Those on His left say, yes, but Lord, if I had known it was you, I would have helped you. He is giving us this warning now, so that we do know, and don’t repeat their mistake.

It reminds me of a joke I was told almost twenty years ago:

There was a young man called Paddy. He wasn’t a very good Catholic. He used to spend a lot of his time down the pub with his friends, and not a lot of his time praying or going to Mass. Anyway, he came under the influence of the Salvation Army, and became a changed man. And then the day came to give his testimony. His friends laughed and they cried, and they thought it was all so silly what he now believed.

But time went on, and Paddy’s friends died and appeared before the judgement throne of God. They were terrified. “But”, they said, “we didn’t know Lord. We weren’t sure Lord.” And God replied [replacing the swearword from the original version I was told] “Well, you jolly well know now!”

A bit like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, we are given a warning now, so that we can put our house in order. But it’s not just about being nice to people: it’s about our love for the Lord and building up His kingdom, letting people see what it looks like when God reigns in someone’s heart.

So, we may not be on quite as bad a footing as poor Saul. But we too have been shown what is right, and as Saul became St Paul, we too can make something wonderful of our lives too, with the grace of God.