Sunday, November 20, 2016

Homily for Solemnity of Christ the King

Homily for the Solemnity of
Christ the King
Nov. 20, 1983
2 Sam 5:1-3
Col 1: 12-20
Luke 23: 35-43
Don Bosco Tech, Paterson, N.J.

The deacons preached at Holy Cross this weekend.  Here's an "oldie" for you.

“Blessed is he who inherits the kingdom of David our father” (Alleluia verse).

Today we celebrate Christ as our king.  He is not just David’s heir, not just King of the Jews as Pilate mocked him.  But “he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 12:17).

What does it mean to be a monarch? Is it pomp without substance, as when the Queen opens Parliament?  Is it public acclaim such as the British displayed 2 summers ago when Charles and Diana wed?  Is it unrestrained power such as the king of Saudi Arabia is reputed to hold?

These are some of the trappings and the essence of monarchy as the world sees it.  These aren’t what we celebrate when we proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, that he is our king.

What does it mean, then, for Christ to be a king?  The readings give us some insight.  The first reading described David’s anointing as king over all Israel, and the Alleluia verse praised Jesus as David’s son and heir.

Who is this David?  In the Jewish mind, he is the ideal king, the one whom the Messiah – that is, the Christ – will be like.  He unites the people.  He shepherds the nation.  In a real sense, he is the redeemer of Israel.
King David (Our Lady of the Valley, Orange, N.J.)
David unites Israel.  “All the tribes of Israel came to David” (2 Sam 5:1).  Up to this point, David has ruled over only the tribe of Judah.  The northern tribes have given their allegiance to Saul’s house.  This division and strife has proven unsatisfactory.  So the elders, in effect, stage a coup and offer David the kingship of the northern tribes too, recognizing his and Judah’s kinship with them: “we are your bone and flesh.”

They also recognize that David, the former shepherd boy of Bethlehem, was a leader in all of Israel when Saul was king.  “It was you that led out and brought in Israel” (5:2), that is, led the Israelites in raids and battles against the Philistines and brought them home victorious.  The women used to sing, probably with some exaggeration, that “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Sam 18:7).  The elders are choosing a proven military leader to shepherd the people, to protect them from their enemies.  They recognize that God has chosen him for this special mission.

The king is to be Israel’s redeemer.  To redeem is not only to ransom or to buy back but to liberate.  The king is to free Israel from oppression, from danger.  He is to be the avenger of the injustice inflicted upon them.  All of this David will do by conquering Israel’s threatening neighbors, the Philistines, the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Edomites.  He will arrange alliances with the Arameans and the Phoenicians.  Under David, Israel will become secure and comfortable.

Jesus, like David, was picked out by YHWH and anointed – anointed not by the prophet Samuel, like David, nor by a group of elders, but by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ anointing by the Holy Spirit, like David’s anointing, made him a messiah, a Christ, one who has been anointed.  The Spirit came upon him at the River Jordan, and YHWH’s voice from heaven proclaimed, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).
The Baptism of Jesus
(St. Ursula's Church, Mt. Vernon, N.Y. ?)
Jesus has been anointed as the messiah of YHWH’s people in order to do as David did, but more excellently.  Jesus unites the people.  He shepherds the nation; he is the redeemer of Israel.  These are his claim to kingship.

Jesus unites all of us into God’s people.  “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together….  Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:17,19-20).  Jesus unites all of mankind, especially sinners who can say, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power” (Luke 23:42).

Jesus shepherds the nation.  All of us who are in Christ (who are anointed with the Holy Spirit), all of us are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people….  Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:9-10), in the words of St. Peter.  Like David, Jesus is our shepherd because he leads us out and brings us in: out into battle against evil, sin, death; back into eternal life.  Jesus is our leader: “he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead” (Col 1:18), who has overcome for us both sin and death and makes a covenant of faith with us.

Jesus is the redeemer of Israel:  the new Israel washed clean of sin in the blood of his cross, delivered from the dominion of darkness and into the inheritance of the saints in light (cf. Col 1:12-13).  “In him we have redemption, that is, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:14), the conquest of our enemy.  We are secure and have inner peace because he is protecting us from the ultimate danger – which is not nuclear holocaust but eternal death.  He assures us who bow before his throne that we will be with him in paradise.

Jesus Christ is our king.  He still unites us, shepherds us, redeems us.  He calls us into his one body, which is the Church. He reconciles us to his Father and to one another by forgiving our sins and leading us to forgive.  He gives us his sacraments.  He nourishes us with his Word and with the teaching of the Church.  He has given his Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts.  He has destined us to share in his heavenly kingdom forever and ever.

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