Fr. Brent’s Homily 11-22-2020

34th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
22 November 2020
Readings: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17, Psalm 23, 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28, Matthew
25:31-46 https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112220.cfm
Introduction before the Collect prayer:
Today we celebrate the final Sunday in what the Church calls Ordinary Time, and
after celebrating Thanksgiving this Thursday, we begin the season of Advent next
Sunday. We end Ordinary time with this solemnity when we pray with the notion
of Jesus Christ as our King. The Book of Revelation calls him “King of kings and
Lord of Lords”. And so he is – beyond all the imperfections of any earthly king, or
president, prime minister or even a bishop or priest or any of our sisters and
brothers here on earth – Christ reigns over a kingdom of justice and peace, where
everyone has a place at the table, everyone is loved, and there is always more
room – no Us and Them, just Us.
Penitential Act:
To prepare ourselves to celebrate these sacred mysteries we consider our need
for God’s mercy and help, so that we may serve the values of Christ’s Kingdom,
and ask forgiveness for the ways we – individually and as a society — may exclude
our neighbor or act unjustly.
…Lord have mercy.
…Christ have mercy.
… Lord have mercy.
Homily:
In this account of the final judgment Jesus makes very clear that the basis on
which we will be judged will be how we have treated those whom society has
traditionally, and still today, valued least: The hungry, the naked, the thirsty, the
imprisoned, the stranger or foreigner.
God dwells in in and among the weak and downtrodden in a special way.
“Whatever you do to the least of my brethren you do to me.” (Mt 25:40)
For us modern people, living in a western society and sharing in very
individualistic values, we might receive this message as a call to personal acts of
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charity and compassion to those who suffer materially, socially and emotionally.
That is not bad, of course, and it is what is most easily within our grasp to actually
do.
Yet premodern societies, like Jesus’ own, thought in rather more collective ways.
One’s identity was wrapped up, to a great extent, in whom you belonged to –
your family, your ancestors, the village or region – and your choices in life were
shaped by that. So here Jesus is not just warning individuals who harm the
poor, but he is taking on the sinful ways society as a whole acts, and even people
with good intentions who nevertheless play along.
Consider in Jesus’ time:
• the ostracism of lepers…
• the harsh, sexist and unforgiving way in which adultery was treated (by stoning
to death)…
• the cruelty with which those of a different ethnicity (i.e. Samaritans) were
regarded (as dogs)…
Jesus vocally and by his deeds chose to spend time with people like these and
condemned the cultural norms which were cruel to them.
Our society has similar kinds of ills: The scapegoating of immigrants, the unequal
treatment of people based on race by the criminal justice system, the ease with
which violence is resorted to by authorities, by individuals and by nations at war;
or the seriously widened gap between rich and poor in our country.
We too must go beyond individual acts of charity or compassion – good that they
may be – and do things together as a community, a state, a nation, even in
international relations – to stand for the values of Christ’s Kingdom, the divine
reign of justice and peace; and NOT be simply a people with good intentions who
nevertheless plays along with the sinful status quo. [You know the saying about
good intentions…]
As I mentioned a couple Sundays ago, for Jesus the Kingdom of God was not
something that was coming at some future date. It was immanent, it was
coming into being NOW.
In the synagogue in his hometown, Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah:
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“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolls the scroll back up, and he says to the congregation, “Today
this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:17-21)
That is the Kingdom of God. And it is TODAY.
How is the kingdom of God at hand, yet we see a sinful suffering world around
us? It is because Christ is sitting on the edge of his chair, waiting for an
opportunity to find an ‘in’ with us, to win our hearts to his vision, desperate to
heal and cure, to forgive and redeem. He will show the way, lead the way. BUT we
have to open our eyes to that divine urgency to make things new, to change our
ways, to get us ‘un-stuck’ from our maybe comfortable complacency, or our
fatalistic resignation.
What will it take for you and me to be ALL IN for the Christ’s Kingdom? To put
our trust there? To commit our hearts, hands and voices? To be willing to sacrifice
our comforts at times for the sake of love and compassion? To believe in the
possibility of a world where no one lies outside, where there’s no Us and Them,
only US?
As my grandmother is nearing her passing from this world to the next – having
had a massive brain hemorrhage three days ago – I am reminded that our destiny
is not here. Thus we really have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Whatever money and comfort and power and connections we accumulate here,
they are not what we will take with us. What we DO take with us is the LOVE we
have shown and received: The difference we make to our family, our community,
our society, how we have contributed to building God’s Kingdom here and now.
And as St. Paul writes: “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his
feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”(1 Corinthians 15:25)
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If we have chosen to live for Christ’s kingdom and its values in this life, we are
sure to belong to that Kingdom in the life to come. Let us not be self-satisfied or
complacent, but accept that…
each day it’s a choice,
each day it’s a challenge to strive to love like Jesus loved,
and each day we have lots of companions with whom we NEED to walk together.
May this St. Anselm community be that ever-expanding circle of love that is the
Kingdom of God.
Christ is our King, our shepherd, our savior, brother and friend.
His Kingdom is NOW! Let us journey there together.