23rd / 24th November 2019

posted 2 Dec 2019, 05:18 by Parish Office

Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year C – National Youth Sunday (23 & 24/11/19)


This Sunday is the last Sunday of the current Year C cycle of readings, and next Sunday we start again at Year A.  It means that, for Christ the King, there are three different sets of readings, giving three different themes.  This year, we see Christ reigning as King of kings and Lord of lords, not from a royal throne, but from the Cross.  And the location of the Cross is significant.


So firstly, where was Jesus crucified?  We know that on Palm Sunday He entered Jerusalem with great fanfare.  He entered in the way He did to make a point – that He is the King of Peace, prophesied by the Scriptures.  Fr James Mallon put it this way:  what Christ did was just the same as if, in America, someone entered Washington DC in a black stretch limo decorated with American flags and a police escort.


But did He die in Jerusalem?  If you go to Jerusalem today, you would be tempted to answer yes, but the city has changed over the years.  Back in the first century, the location of Christ’s crucifixion was actually outside the city, outside the city wall.  Jerusalem was the Holy City, and to die outside it was to die as an outsider and rejected by God.  So what does that mean?  It means that Christ took on all sin, all the rejection of God.  His redemption is not just for the nice people, or for those who think they are good -  it’s also for those who are rejected, those who have been thrown on the scrapheap of society.  He is there for those who have fallen into mortal sin and those who have been excommunicated by the Church – He is there for everyone; not to rejoice in their exclusion, caused by their own sins, but to save them from their sins, and reconcile them to Himself and the Church.


Today’s Gospel begins with Christ receiving abuse on all sides – from the religious leaders, the soldiers, and the thief who cursed Him and all He came to bring.  But He is also there with the onlookers who followed Him, and the good thief who repented and turned to Him for forgiveness.  In among all the cursing and insults, the good thief publicly acknowledged Christ as King:  “Jesus … remember me when you come into your kingdom”.  Christ was not defeated on the Cross, despite His apparent powerlessness.  Even at that point, He reigned as Lord, and gave salvation to the repentant thief.  To this day, His work of salvation and His reign continues.


A few weeks ago, a priest of the Archdiocese of Liverpool told me about one of his first Christmases as a priest.  He was going to celebrate Christmas Mass in the local hospital, and he had ambitious plans about the carols they were going to sing and what a glorious celebration it was going to be.  But it ended up being something of an anti-climax.  Only a small handful of people turned up.  After that, he then went around the wards to give various patients Holy Communion.  And the very last person he visited on his round was a prisoner.  “Can you hear my confession, Father?”  “Yes, sure.”  He (the priest) said that that confession made all the difference to his day – this is what it’s all about:  one repentant sinner making his way back to the Lord, and despite all he had done, being forgiven and reconciled to God and the Church.  There was a real example of the reign of Christ.


Today is National Youth Sunday, and this year’s theme is “significance”.  One of the troubles we can find in society is the number of people who feel that their lives are insignificant, that they are not important, that no one cares, and that they are a waste of time and space.  But we see in the reign of Christ that that is not the case.  If the outcasts in His time were important to Him, then so is everyone today.  When he began as Pope, Benedict XVI put it this way:


“only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”  [End of quote]


This was him speaking from the heart, to the heart of all of us.  When St John Paul II began as Pope, he called on world leaders not to be afraid of Christ, and to open political systems to Him.  Pope Benedict mentioned this briefly, but finished with a specific message for the youth:


“And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.” [End of quote] (St Peter’s Square, 24th April 2005)


We would do well to heed his words.