Feast of Christ the King 2015
MASS TO CELEBRATE THE 20th ANNIVERSARY OF THE CHURCH OF SAINT CHARLES BORROMEO, CONFEY
Homily Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
Church of Saint Charles Borromeo, Confey, 22nd November 2015
“We celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, Jesus Christ King of the Universe. The term “king” appears at the very first moments of the life of Jesus on earth and at the very last moments of his life. The angels announce to the shepherds that a king has been born. On the cross of Jesus is written “Jesus of Nazareth, King”. Kings, however, are rarer in our times than at the time of Jesus and in many cases they have become a little anachronistic. Why then do we still today celebrate Jesus Christ as king?
The Feast of Christ the King is celebrated on the final Sunday of the Liturgical Year. It is a day on which we reflect on the history of salvation, the story of our God who accompanies humankind on our journey here on earth right throughout history. That history will only come to its conclusion and fulfilment when the salvation won for us by Jesus on the Cross is fully realised all over the world. Christ’s kingdom will only be fully realised when our world truly becomes a likeness of God’s kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.
If we wish to measure progress in our world, then the criterion of progress must be linked with the realization of God’s plan for humankind and for all creation. Certainly there is so much to be grateful for in modern day progress: think of the fight against disease, the progress in technology and communications and the fight against poverty that have all taken place. And there are many other examples of progress, not just technology: think of the different way in which men and women, parents and children, relate to one another. Think of the respect for minorities. Think of progress in education and you are blessed in this parish with excellent schools.
In these days however, we do not have to be reminded that progress is not in one direction only: we know of the continued presence of war, of conflict and terrorism as well as of injustices and inequalities of our world. Think of the culture of greed and corruption and exploitation that we encounter daily. These are signs of a kingdom without God and remind us that we still have much more to achieve if we wish to see the kingship of Christ to establish deep roots in our world. We celebrate the Feast of Christ the King because Jesus’ kingship still today challenges us about the way we live and work as individuals and how we interact with each other and with creation.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is brought by the religious authorities before Pilate for judgement. The accusation is that he purports to be king. Pilate would have been well aware of the expectation among many Jews at that time, that a king would arise to free the people from subjection to the Roman authorities. His secret services, whatever they were called or looked like in those days, would have had an attentive ear to the ground to be aware of any threat of subversion. They would certainly not have been happy to hear of anyone arousing widespread public interest and who purported to be a king. They would have remembered how after the multiplication of the loaves some people were about to come to proclaim Jesus a king. Pilate wanted to know therefore who this Jesus was and what his claims about his identity and power might be.
Jesus is brought before Pilate already a prisoner. He looks anything like a king. He is totally in Pilate’s hands. Pilate asks him formally if he is a king. Jesus says that his kingdom does not come from this world; otherwise his men would have fought and used force to ensure that he was not arrested. Jesus then is one who reveals his kingship by rejecting force and allowing himself to be arrested and humiliated. What sort of kingship is that?
Jesus is a king who renounces force and power and the nature of whose kingdom appears more evident the weaker he becomes in human terms and the more he loses even the outward signs of power and earthly authority. Jesus’ kingship is revealed in its fullness in his passion and death. His kingship is revealed as one who loves so much that he voluntarily gives his own life for others.
Jesus revealed his kingship before Pilate literally stripped of any sign of power and influence, reminding us that our fullness as human beings comes when we reject superficiality or indifference or compromise about where happiness is to be found and what type of kingdom we embrace in our lives.
The message of Jesus is always a message of newness. It is a message of transformation. It is a message which continuously challenges us to do better. It challenges us to go beyond our own complexes and anxieties and compulsions, our seeking comfort zones which we think protect us from harsh reality. The message of Jesus shakes up our prejudices. It is easy to create gods of our own. It is easy to acquiesce in our own ideas about God and not let God break into our hearts. The gods we create for ourselves are gods that entrap us. The God revealed in Jesus Christ is one who frees and empowers. To use God’s name to foster our own false views or impose them of others is blasphemy.
For over twenty years now, from this Church building, men and women have been inspired and supported to be men and women of change and transformation. They transformed what were just fields, and then anonymous estates, into true community, where people felt that they belonged, where families flourished, where young people developed a pride in themselves and of their schools. True there were was also much hardship over these years. Jobs were scarce. Many young people and families had to emigrate. Austerity was experienced over the years with a variety of names, but always with same suffering.
Anniversaries are moments when we look back, not just with nostalgia but with pride and with realism. Anniversaries are times also when we look ahead, with that same realism but with a hope which springs from our Christian faith and inspired by the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
Saint Charles Borromeo was a reformer saint and bishop. He set out courageously to address the difficulties that the Church faced in his time; the failures in and of the Church, the sins and lukewarmness of Christian believers. As we look back with gratitude for the work of this believing community here in Confey – work of priests, religious, lay men and women, especially good hard-working families and young people who make us proud – may we also renew our faith in Jesus Christ who opens for us a challenging road to truth and integrity, but who also accompanies and sustains us with word and sacrament. ”