B Cycle – Feast of Christ the King
Please forgive me for using the old name of this feast and not the current name of Solemnity. Using the old title makes it easy for those using my blog to look at all homilies on this Sunday because they will all have the same title, just a different year.
As we end this current liturgical cycle it ends vastly different than it started with Jesus in a manger, in obscurity. On that day Jesus was dependent on his parents, born in squalor without anyone noticing but a few shepherds. On this feast we are reminded he will come again in glory, robed in majesty, in power to restore the earth to its original design and to bring us into God presence sharing eternal life. It will be a day when everyone will realize the truth of the gospel and will rejoice or tremble with fear because of their unbelief. It is a message we do not want to think about because we know we are uncertain about our worthiness to be welcomed into the presence of God.
Yes, he came to restore us and to take away the guilt of our sins, but we somehow believe we must do something on our own to be worthy of such a gift. We will shortly acknowledge that truth when we profess our belief that Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead. It is that the image of a judge makes us uncertain about our destiny. We doubt God’s mercy and we justify our worth by comparing our sins to those who have done truly evil things.
We revert to what we know about sin and punishment and unfortunately, we can easily mistake the criteria on which we will be judged. We use the adherence to things we have been taught we should not do instead of paying attention to things we should be doing. We measure our “holiness’ by comparing ourselves to the unholy. After all we have not murdered anyone, nor have we robbed anyone, nor are we steeped in sexual sins and lust. We just commit small sins like white lies, we steal from the vast supply of office supplies from our employer, we cheat on our taxes. Those certainly do not compare to murder.
So , if we are not greedy, prideful, deceitful, envious, gluttonous, or seeking revenge then we feel like we are on the path to holiness. But if that is all it takes then why did Jesus’ use parables to challenge that kind of thinking? Think about it for a minute, in the parables Jesus challenged the thinking of those righteous Pharisees. Those who depended on strict adherence to the law were lead down a path that agreed with their thinking up until the last moment and then wham, a twist that challenged their thinking. The parable of the workers in the vineyard is a good example that shows us how wrong our concept of reward for good is contrary to God’s thinking.
What we should be considering is not just obedience to the law, which is the fundamental thing we all must do. It is the very foundation of what must come later as we grow in our knowledge of who Jesus is and why Jesus came. What we must focus on is not what we should not do but instead we must pay attention to what God says we must do. Thou shall love the Lord with your whole heart, mind, strength, and soul. Thou shall keep holy the sabbath. Thou shall love thy neighbor as thy self. If we do these things, then judgement is dependent on what we do not just how well we follow the laws and dictates of our faith.
Think about it for a minute when the disciples, observing Jesus in prayer considered their own prayer life as a Jew they realize his prayers were different. He prayed the same Jewish prayers three times a day, he went to the temple and joined the people in prayer, and he prayed by talking and listening to God. Lord, they said, teach us to pray and part of what he taught was not just to honor God, to acknowledge his lordship and dependence on him for all things but he said, “forgive as we have been forgiven.” How well will we fare when we stand before Jesus, and he points out our unwillingness to forgive?
If you have any confusion on what we will be judged on listen to Jesus talking about the judgment in Matthews’s gospel chapter 25. There he gives us three parables: the virgins with their lamps awaiting the bridegroom; the parable of the talents; and the final judgment. Pay attention he is telling us for we need to be prepared, we need to be using the gifts he has given us to grow the kingdom of God not just satisfy the basic tenants of our faith and we need to readjust our thinking on what we will be judged on beyond the basics.
In the parable of the judgement (Mt.25:31) it is those who are going beyond the demands of the law who are receiving their crowns and place in the kingdom. It is those who are living their faith vs meeting an obligation of our faith who receive the paise and reward for being good and faithful servants. Loving God with all our hearts involves our hearts not just our mindful obedience. We are the ones who have been taught from an early age good behavior will receive praise, honor, and reward. We have also been taught bad behavior will receive punishment, dishonor, and rejection.
We cannot avoid sinning because we are human, and we will fail, and we will sin in thought, word, and action. That is why Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit whom God said will change our hearts so we can go beyond our humanity and love as God loves, forgive as God forgives and sacrifice as Jesus sacrificed. When our days end the judgement is not to be feared but embraced for the judgement is based on how well we love not how much better we are than those evil people.