Homily (Reflection) for the Thirty-Fourth Sunday of the Year (C) (24th November, 2019) on the Gospel
2Sam 5:1-3;Ps 121:1-5 (R. cf. v.2);
This Sunday is known by various names for various reasons: 34th Sunday of the year because it is the Sunday after the 33rd Sunday, last Sunday of the Year because it is the last Sunday of the Church’s Liturgical Year, the Solemnity of Christ the King because today, the Universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King. Again, in this part of the world because the Solemnity of Corpus Christi falls in the rainy season, the Eucharistic procession that accompanies it is shifted to the Solemnity of Christ the King.
The Solemnity of Christ the King was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI as an antidote to the secularism in the world. Just as today, people live their lives irrespective of what God wants. Hence, what we profess today is our belief in the kingship of Christ as God, the Word Incarnate, Redeemer and Judge of the living and the dead. His kingdom is supreme, universal, eternal and spiritual.
Topic: Who is really your King?
How will people look at someone who could not feed himself answering “Ezeanị afọ juru”? Certainly, it will be absurd. Many may expect today’s gospel to be from those passages that depict the powers of Jesus. On the contrary, we see the humiliation of Jesus. We are here celebrating a king who died like a common criminal, a king who did not make attempt to overpower or at least flee from his foes. Even when one of his disciples made an attempt before running away, he told him to sheath his sword, cf. Jn 18:1-11, Matt. 26: 51-54. He did not even expect the army to come armed, cf. Matt. 26: 55.
The Jews had waited for the Messiah, but could not accept this one. They were expecting a king-warrior. A messiah who could save them from the Romans, cf. Lk 24:21. Not even the inner-caucus understood Jesus’ messiahship. When he was fore-telling about his death and resurrection, they were busy struggling for positions, cf. Mk 9: 30-34.
Will it be absurd to say that not even we who celebrate the kingship of Christ can boast of knowing what we are doing? What do we take Christ for? Our celebration should go beyond mere singing, dancing, beating of musical instruments of various kinds, putting on uniforms, spraying of flowers, eating and drinking and so on. As we match out with our brothers and sisters today proclaiming the kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ we should reflect on how deep is our proclamation. Or do we think that Jesus is looking for these externalities? In Lk 19:40, he told the Pharisees that even the stones could shout if the need arises. As people who have come to celebrate the Christ’s ofala (kingship), how many of us are prepared to share his table? We should remember that “Blessed [happy] are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." (Rev 19:9). But we turn this invitation down and still claim to celebrate Christ’s ofala and profess our faith in the Eucharist.
The Lord said: Because this people approaches me only in words, honours me only with lip-service while their hearts are far from me, and reverence for me, as far as they are concerned, is nothing but human commandment, a lesson memorial (Is 29:13).
We will soon go to the streets in line with Ps 45:15, Ps 105:43 with music. For the Psalmist, it is spectacular to lead the people of God with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival cf. Ps 42:4. So sad that little do we care to ponder on what we do. Hence, God questions:
A son honours his father, and servants their master. If then I am a father, where is the honour due to me? And if I am a master, where is the respect due me? Says the Lord of hosts to you (Mal 1:6).
If Jesus is our King, we must be with him wherever he is (Jn 12:26). Being with him implies listening to him, obeying him, listening to his church. Jesus quoted Isaiah 29:13 in Matt 15:8-9; Mk 7:6-7. We honour ourselves more than God, cf. 1Sam 2:29.
As we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King today, do we prepare to offer him any gift just as we do to ndi Igwe (traditional rulers) when they celebrate ofala festivals? The greatest gift God looks for from our hands today is our lives. God chose us to be his subjects for his own glory. But what does he get in return?
For as the loincloth clings to one’s loins, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord, in order that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory. But they would not listen (Jer 13:11).
In today’s gospel pericope, there are different characters that are good for our Christian reflection. The first is the people who stood by watching Jesus; they neither crucified Jesus nor did anything to save him. It could be either they were helpless to do anything or confused about what was happening. They might even be expecting a miracle from him. The leaders scoffed at Jesus saying: “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one”. The next group is the soldiers who mocked him saying “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” Even one of the criminals crucified with Jesus was also deriding him saying: “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” It was only the other criminal who acted differently. He rebuked the one abusing Jesus, acknowledged his sins and the consequent punishment, showed his respect for God despite the fact that he was a criminal, and lastly asked Jesus for forgiveness. To him alone who acknowledged Jesus’ Kingship Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise”. Where do you belong – people, leaders, soldiers, the criminal who derided Him, or the one who acknowledged Jesus’ kingship among other good things?
Remember, all these characters followed Jesus, cf. Lk 23:27 and therefore can be called “Christians”, cf. Acts 11:26. They were the people for whom Jesus came into the world, suffered like a common criminal and died the most ignorable death for their sins and also for whom he prayed: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34).
Celebrating Christ as the Universal King implies that He is the king of both those who accept Him as their King as well as those who did not. This reminds me of kingship tussle in one town that I do not wish to mention the name. During the tussle, people pitched to different camps. At the end, one of the contenders won. Some of those who did not support him during the tussle surrendered their arms and accepted him as their king but others refused. It happened that a young man from that community was preparing to travel abroad and as a result sought for the visa. He was required to bring among other things a letter from the traditional ruler of their community. The family of this young man in question was one of the diehard opponents of the traditional ruler who could not even accept him after his coronation. What will this man and his family do and no other letter substitutes for that of the traditional ruler (cf. Is 45:23-24)? Who is your king? Remember, action speaks louder than voice.
Today, as we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King, we are called to give Christ a chance to rule in our lives. Christ wants each and every one of us to be that hand with which he helps, the eye with which he looks, the ear he listens with, the mouth with which he speaks, and so on. It is left for us to see how far we are these.
Again, as today is the last Sunday of the Church’s calendar, it will be good for us to reflect on how well we spent the year. It is a time to resolve on how to spend the coming year, A, which begins with the first Sunday of Advent. Therefore, this is a period of stocktaking. Ensure that years do not come after another without any improvement in your life.
Bible Reading: 1Jn 4:20-21; Lk 17:20-37; 19:11-27; Matt 25:31-46; Ps 100.
Thought for today: To what extent is Jesus really your King?
Let us pray: Jesus, "My Lord and my God," (Jn 20:28) give me the grace to be your true subject in this world that I may be found worthy to reign with you in the world to come (2Tim 2:12) – Amen.
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