Hi everyone, this is my homily for NOVEMBER 25, 2018 – the SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/112518.cfm Thanks as always for reading; sharing this blog on your social media sites; and your feedback and comments. I appreciate it. Have a good week – God Bless – Fr Jim
Also you can subcribe and get the audios of the homilies from iTunes as a Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fr-jim-cherns-homilies/id1440618142?mt=2
“Are you the King of the Jews?”
Pilate asks Jesus that essential and critical question.
It really does come down to that… that question, “are you the king?” The answer doesn’t allow multiple opinions or perspectives where we can “agree to disagree.” This was – and still is – a dividing line.
Pilate didn’t really care. He’s a politician from Rome. His job is to keep the Jews, the people the Romans have occupied under control. Pilate can see Jesus is an innocent man. He knows that Jesus poses no real, immediate threat which is why he is somewhat dismissive in his interrogations of Him. Don’t get me wrong. Pilate does make a decision in all of this – it’s why his name is mentioned in the creed every week. He had a choice, He had an opportunity to recognize what was going on. Pilate chose to be a coward and tried to opt out of the debate, “washing his hands” of the whole situation, trying to ignore the fact that he was ultimately responsible.
The Jewish leaders were clear in answering the question: Jesus was not their king. They had rejected His preaching, His teaching, His authority…they had rejected Him. So the Jewish leaders brought Jesus before Pilate, (an official they despised coming from the hated Roman occupying force who had oppressed them, willing to put all that aside momentarily) because they couldn’t kill him, which is what they really wanted as punishment. There would be no agreeing to disagree with these leaders and Jesus and his followers over the question “Are you the King?”
Today, the Church takes quite the opposite position and almost ups the ante. We celebrate what is called Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This feast is actually somewhat recent. It’s only been around since 1925. At the time, Pope Pius XI noted how there were attacks on Christians from many fronts. What was called “The Great War” had ended a few years earlier – and tensions remained. People had witnessed institutions and governments crumbling. With all that uncertainty, the Pope wanted the faithful not to lose sight that Jesus Christ’s reign – which began with his Passion, Death and Resurrection – that no matter what happened, Jesus’ reign is forever.
The Pope instituting this feast, calling attention to Jesus’ reign didn’t prevent World War II from happening… nor the millions and millions of people killed including over 6 million Jews in the Holocaust… nor countless other atrocities in the near-century since. It wasn’t a call to somehow group together all Catholic Christians to create some isolated society where we could guard ourselves away from those who don’t respect Jesus Christ or look to him as their king. That’s not what this feast is about.
We’re meant to reflect on the fact that Jesus Christ’s reign was born out of love and continues out of love. To be a member of his kingdom is a decision, a choice that’s made in our hearts and minds. When we meet Jesus and experience His tender mercy and unconditional love for us, that encounter has the power to change us. But love is more than just a feeling. When we love someone, we make choices and decisions that reflect that reality. It’s how couples remain faithful to each other decades later even when the warm and fuzzy feelings disappear. It’s how a mother or father get up in the middle of the night to take care of a sick child – they might not feel like that or enjoy the mid- night wake up call. But that decision to remain faithful; that choice to get up and be attentive reflects that call of the heart and in the process, the love becomes deeper, real, authentic.
This came to mind the day before Thanksgiving. I saw a headline that read “27 year old Christian missionary killed by people he went to preach to.” Because of how distant and remote the island is, the full details are still not clear of what happened. But what they know is that, John Chau, originally from Washington state had felt this call to be a missionary to this remote island near India. In preparing for this journey and researching it, he wondered in his diary if this might be one of the last islands in the world where Jesus’ name had not been preached . So he had traveled to the island a few times. At first he brought gifts of fish, scissors, safety pins – introducing himself simply saying “My Name is John. I love you and Jesus loves you.” He wrote that when he had done this he had arrows shot at him. He retreated to safety and that night wrote in a journal over 13 pages that talked about his faith and his fear… At one point saying “I think I could be more useful alive . . . but to you, God, I give all the glory of whatever happens,” He asked God to forgive “any of the people on this island who try to kill me, and especially if they succeed.” The next morning, he was martyred.
His family released a statement on Friday saying “John Allen Chau was … a beloved son, brother, uncle and best friend to us. To others he was a Christian missionary, a wilderness EMT, and international soccer coach, and a mountaineer. He loved God, life, helping those in need, and had nothing but love for the Sentinelese people. We forgive those reportedly responsible for his death. [We also ask for the release of those friends he had in Andaman Islands. He ventured out on his own free will and his local contacts need not be persecuted for his own actions.”]
It was such a tragic and sad story on a whole bunch of levels that hit me on a bunch of levels. Most obviously because I couldn’t help but think here’s a guy who’s only a few years older than the students I minister to at Montclair State University. I know if this was one of my kids I would probably beg them not to go and do this, and try to come up with alternatives and other opportunities where they could proclaim Jesus Christ that would be safer. Initially reading the story, I wondered about John’s naivete or recklessness in doing this.
But what kind of snapped me out of that was when I read some of the reactions to the story. It really upset me. Online, twitter trolls wrote things as snarky as saying they wanted to set up a go-fund me page to buy the people on the island more arrows; others stating that John got what he deserved for bothering people like this with his beliefs. (I guess it’s okay and even justified to kill someone for articulating their beliefs in Jesus Christ). Others tried to justify the actions of the native peoples saying that this remote island’s people had never been immunized so the missionary was a threat to them (I’m sure the natives were thinking when they saw the young guy waving, singing worship songs with his bible in hand – this guy might have the flu which could kill us)
Thats when the reality of Pilate asking Jesus “are you the king” being the dividing line hit me once again. Because for John Chau, Jesus Christ was his King. John is no different then the countless numbers of missionaries who died in similar circumstances preaching to the people of Vietnam (St. Andrew Dung Lac’s feast day was yesterday) Native Americans, the Korean people’s, people in South America or Africa. The difference was we used to honor that sacrifice, marvel at the bravery, be inspired by their witness and perhaps thank God we weren’t being called to that type of service, that type of mission. But it used to be the kind of thing that caused people to stop and ask God what it was He did want us to do – how could we be a witness that we had a King, how could we testify to His reign by the way we lived our lives.
Which is what we’re left with. There’s no shortage of things wrong in our lives, in our nation, in our Church this day and age. We can all give our own lists of leaders who’s “terms” or “reigns” we might have legitimate, serious concerns or questions over their effectiveness and stewardship in those roles. But it’s not about them. They will all be held to account for how they acted or didn’t act. It’s about us. Everyone of us. Thousands of years later, there are countless numbers of people who still wonder about who Jesus is- asking “Are you the King?” How we respond to the daily temptations we’re faced with, the choices we make, the lives we live, demonstrates whether or not, for each of us, He is.
So this Tuesday, November 27th is #GivingTuesday- which in the last 7 years has become one of the largest global movements utilizing social media for charitable fund raising. Last year, Giving Tuesday was Newman Catholic’s biggest, single day in fund raising for the year. This year, we’re utilizing #GivingTuesay as the kick off to our Annual Christmas Appeal.
Twice a year, we appeal to Alumni, Families of our students; Friends and Benefactors for their generosity in assisting us in our mission of helping students grow in their faith through spiritual, social and community outreach programs…helping each other deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church he founded.
Our Christmas Goal is $15,000.00. You can read more about the fundraiser at our website: https://www.msunewman.com/appeal. I appreciate you’re consideration of supporting us and our ministry here.