Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the SOLEMNITY OF JESUS CHRIST THE KING, Sunday, November 25, 2012 -The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/112512.cfm. As always, thanks for reading, for sharing this blog, and all your feedback and comments. God Bless You, Fr. Jim
The other morning I saw an article that kind of surprised me. Every 4 years we are accustomed to the American ritual of electing a new president. Each time we hear it’s more negative, more polarizing and more divisive than ever before, but I must admit, this was the first time I remember seeing a story like this. The article was about how families who have people of different political ideologies, parties, etc are dealing with coming together so soon after this year’s election for Thanksgiving, the national holiday that is known for bringing families together to give thanks to God for the blessings we have received – both in our own personal lives, as well as collectively as a nation.
Some families reported that they were simply going to continue the contentious discussions they had on facebook in person. One guy seemed a bit anxious about it realizing that people had some strong views and heated conversations, now being face to face and adding some wine to the mix was only going to “amplify it.” Things have gotten so tense over politics between one fellow by the name of Brian Davidson, and his father, that they changed their plans completely, deciding not to even come together for Thanksgiving. “We’re not even going,” says Brian. After sharing who he voted for and being somewhat sharp in his characterization of his father’s ideology he ended his conversation with the reporter saying, “Better to skip this one than suffer ‘a non-recoverable blowup.’“
I’m sure that some probably opted not to discuss politics at all – realizing how strongly people believe in their positions and wanting to be able to be together in some relative peace. I know that’s kind of where me and my family have fallen. Part of the reason is we’re Italian, so things can get loud just over whether the turkey is ready or not. But I think part of the problem is that elections, campaigns have become almost like a sporting event. People have chosen their sides, fight to win and then you have a “winner” and a “loser.”
Rather than thinking about what is right, what is just, instead of acting for the good of all the self interests of politicians and lobbyists for different groups or constituencies seems to rule the day. The notion of compromise isn’t about people coming together to forge a solution on something but rather what individuals do to their values just so they can win. It’s no wonder that so many become frustrated and disgusted with the whole thing that rather than become engaged in issues some become apathetic. The number of people who are eligible to vote but actually turn out on election day still hovers around 50-60%. And when pollsters talk to those who actually do cast ballots, often times people say they doubt that even the person they voted for will actually do anything to improve things.
A bit discouraging isn’t it? With such polarization and more and more people becoming either extreme in their views or apathetic (and sometimes ignorant) to them, you’re left with two sides who are absolutely convinced that they are right – that they speak the truth and that the other side is completely wrong. In the process the one thing that both sides seem convinced that they possess, “the truth” is actually discarded..
That’s what’s happening in the Gospel today. Jesus is dragged before Pilate. His own people, fellow Jews have had it with Him – what he’s saying – what he’s doing. These same individuals hate the Romans for occupying their land, for making them second class citizens in their own country, but they hate Jesus even more, so much so that they want Him gone. They don’t simply want him imprisoned, they want him crucified.
Now Pilate has no love for the people he is responsible to govern. So he tries some politics – Jesus violated Jewish rules not Roman laws, why are you bringing him to me? OK, you people want him killed – it’s Passover and it’s Roman custom to release a prisoner sentenced to death – you want me to release a crazed, convicted murderer named Barrabas or do you want this guy who basically you are bringing here because you find him annoying, Jesus?
We know what happens. The Jewish leaders got louder and louder; Pilate, despite knowing in his heart of hearts that Jesus was an innocent man compromises his values and allows a murderer to go free and Jesus to be crucified. And, the truth is discarded once again. In this case, the embodiment of “the truth” – Jesus Christ, God’s Son – is crucified.
It’s kind of peculiar for us to focus on this gospel, and this reality on a feast we celebrate called CHRIST THE KING. Yet, the Church in her wisdom uses that contradiction as a call to humility and a call to reality.
The world has always and will always reject Jesus Christ. His radical call of selfless, sacrificial love isn’t as popular in a world, in a culture looking for people to pick sides of an issue, be counted on to support a certain ideology or candidate. God’s kingdom could never be run by humanity because quite simply humanity always has to deal with original sin. Original sin isn’t simply about Adam and Eve eating some fruit they were told to stay away from in a Garden… Original sin at it’s core is self-centeredness: Who needs God when we can be gods ourselves?
Jesus is brought before Pilate in the Gospel and questioned, “Are you the King of the Jews?” From the scene that’s before Pilate with Jesus’ own people turning Him in to a hated occupying force, the evidence would appear to be pretty obvious to any observer – “Ah, no”. Yet Pilate asks the question anyway. Perhaps recognizing that despite the loud and conflicting voices, there was something royal about this man before him. Perhaps seeing truth within this man, but still unwilling to sacrifice himself to stand up for the truth.
For you and I Pilate’s question resonates thousands of years later in our own day and our own age. As a contentious, polarizing campaign has ended with people backing different politicians, we’re not being polled or asked to vote for someone, but to answer that question – Do we recognize Jesus Christ as our King? Whatever our answer, it’s worth noting that this loving King reigns for all eternity and His Kingdom already outlasted the Roman empire and every subsequent human government that has risen and faded into the history books. Should we truly wish to be apart of His kingdom, our good citizenship isn’t verified by our physical residency, taxes paid or any of the usual normal duties expected but rather a willingness and desire to move beyond our own opinions, our politics, our wants, our desires to truly serve, to follow, to love the embodiment of “truth”– Jesus Christ our King.