Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Feast of Christ the King

23 November 2014 – Shared Homily Starter

First Reading
Ezekiel 34.11-12, 15-17
Second Reading
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Matthew 25:31-46

Today is the feast of Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday. The mental images that the words “king” and “reign” bring to mind are based on our knowledge of the actions of kings and political leaders. Today's first reading from the priest and prophet Ezekiel gives us God's view of leadership. The image of the shepherd is commonly used to portray good monarchs in biblical literature. So, if we think of Christ the King as Christ the Good Shepherd, we have a truer sense of what this day is about.

Now, Ezekiel lived during the time the city of Jerusalem and it's Temple were destroyed in 586 BCE. He experienced the early years of the Babylonian exile. So through Ezekiel, God is saying that the "shepherds" have not taken care of the "flock," and because of their poor kingship the people of Israel were "scattered," that is, sent into exile. Later in this chapter of Ezekiel, portrays the leaders as stronger sheep who trample the pasture and dirty the water that others must use, and who push the weaker aside.

If we look at what's happening around the world today, Syria, Iraq, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Hungary, Columbia, and for Indigenous Peoples, the Americas. The people who wield the power push the weaker aside, “trample,” destroy or confiscate their lands and pollute the water that they need to use. Where will it all end?

Ezekiel tells us that God says “the fat and the strong be destroyed.” To give you an idea of why we should have faith and hope, I'll relate a bit of a conversation that I had with Jun, whom some of you know. During the conversation, I was wondering how corporations could think they would survive and make profits when most of them seem to be downsizing and working to impoverish the majority of the people. These fat cats are against a living wage; engage in union busting; export jobs to bolster profits, and buy up or take over smaller less avaricious companies. I asked who do they think is going to be able to afford to buy their whatever they're selling. Jun said something quite profound and speaks to what God is saying about the destruction of “the fat and strong.” He said, they are like male Siamese fighting fish. They are going to feed on or fight each other to the death, thereby destroying themselves.

But Ezekiel reassures the exiles --and us-- that God intends to uphold the covenant with his people and will restore a remnant of the people to the land and with a new Temple at its center. For us, 21st century people, let us consider the land as our hearts and the temple as the presence of God at the center of our hearts and lives. Yes, there will be cloudy and dark days, windy and stormy ones, which scatter us like sheep. The dark times may have sent some of us to various distant places—figuratively and in reality-- for sustenance and/or safety. God will gather together the sheep that were scattered, and bring back those who have wandered from the fold. God promises not only to gather and restore the outcasts but to nourish them, and to soothe and heal those that are hurt.

God's promises are accomplished through us: first, in communities of good-hearted people; and, second in the teachings of communities of faith. All communities of faith have teachings on aligning ourselves with the heart and will of God. The presence in the different faiths of “golden rule” variants is an example. As Christians, the Gospel is our guidebook. The beatitudes two weeks ago are an example, as is today's Gospel from Matthew 25, which is the basis of the first six of the Corporal Works of Mercy. The 7th, burying the dead, comes from the Book of Tobit. The first six are:

  • To feed the hungry.
  • To give drink to the thirsty.
  • To clothe the naked.
  • To shelter the homeless
  • To visit the sick.
  • To visit the imprisoned.

The original wording for the last one was "To ransom the captive.” The conditions of many in the world today, make it appropriate to reclaim this understanding. It calls us to compassionate acts of kindness and comfort to victims of imprisonment, captivity and any other form of just and unjust confinement, such as people in sanctuary, prison or jail, and refugee camps.

The works of mercy may seem like a tall order but we help bring about the Reign of Christ, the Good Shepherd, with each act of kindness and love, each act of creativity, each act of speaking truth. God is Love, Creativity and Truth beyond our comprehension. Small compassionate acts performed in our daily lives nourish these attributes of God within us. Each prayer for more peace, love and justice in our world is the Spirit of God working in us. So I will close with this prayer, adapted from Becoming Neighbours' World Day of Prayer for Migrants and Refugees.

Holy God, You are a God on the move. You move in the world and in our lives. You shape and direct Creation, and us. Your people have always been on the move. Moses led your people out of slavery in Egypt. The Holy Family fled to Egypt as refugees. Today, people continue to move. War, poverty, oppression and violence drive people from home and country. We pray that today's refugees, forced migrants, internally displaced people, and victims of modern slavery and trafficking may know you are always with them in and through us. May they find their journey’s end as we open ourselves to their stories, their needs and, their hopes. Together may we experience filial solidarity and friendship, and recognize that as Your children, we are all relatives. Amen.1

Question: Take a moment and recall a time when you felt lost or like a “in a strange land” and share who or what helped you find your way?


No comments: