Sunday, November 25, 2012
Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for homily
We Americans are a people whose nation was born
in response to, and as a rejection of, not only a particular king
but of monarchy in general as a way of governing people.
We are citizens of our country, not subjects of our leaders.
Ours is a government understood to be
of the people, by the people and for the people.
So, this political stance poses a curious question for American Christians
who celebrate today the feast of Christ - the King.
The scriptures tell of the Lord’s royalty and his dominion over us
and that Christ’s governance is alien to our homeland. He openly declares that his kingdom is not here, it is elsewhere,
and yet he claims to reign over all the rulers and peoples
of all the nations of the world.
How are we to understand and celebrate this in our culture?
Certainly what the scriptures tell us about the Lord is at least as true
as what we believe about our nation and its government.
Are the two powers in conflict? Many times, they are.
Can the two live together, subsist in the same people?
Can I call myself a faithful Christian and a faithful American
without contradicting myself?
I hope and pray and believe I can.
Does that require careful reflection and discernment on my part?
You bet it does.
The conflicts I experience between faith and nation
between God’s law and the law of the land,
remind me that the tension of the separation of church and state
is always a delicate balance to strike
and nowhere more so than within my own mind and heart.
At the risk of phrasing this too simply
(as often happens with this topic)
the question posed by for us by today’s liturgy
is less a matter of monarchy vs. democracy
and more a question of first loyalty:
to whom do I pledge my first and deepest allegiance?
If I strive to be faithful to my God and loyal to my country,
how do I resolve the situation
when those two realities are in conflict?
And does my resolution of such conflict sometimes reveal
that my greatest loyalty is to neither the church nor the state
but rather to my own ideas, persuasions and needs?
Am I sometimes the monarch in the universe of my own life,
consulting with church and government as my advisors
but independently issuing rulings and decrees
based on allegiance to my own perceived wisdom?
Who is the source of truth in my life?
Who is the arbiter whose wisdom is keener than my own?
Who knows and understands more than I could ever grasp
and thus deserves the allegiance which my mind, heart and soul,
which my words and deeds, are free to give?
Do I sometimes make a god of myself?
Certainly some make a god of the state. And that is idol worship.
But others make a god of the church and that too is idolatry
because the church is not God.
God is greater than the church and the church exists to serve God.
Yet the church is the Body of Christ, who is our – King.
But he does not treat us as subjects;
rather, he considers us as members of his very body
and he calls us his brothers and sisters.
We are, if you will, members of the royal family.
We are close kin of the King
who claims dominion over the kingdom of our hearts and souls
which, as he reminds us, are in this world
but don’t belong to this world.
We American Christians have a kind of dual citizenship:
We are the people of the United States but our hearts belong to Christ
who claims our first allegiance and our deepest loyalty.
When church and state are in conflict
it’s my serious and solemn responsibility
to understand the conflict
and the differences and import of its terms.
As a member of the republic,
I have a responsibility to participate fully and knowledgeably
in our government.
As a Catholic Christian I have a responsibility to know and understand
what the Church teaches and to integrate that
as honestly and as fully possible in my life.
But in all of this
I will fail in allegiance and loyalty to Christ the King
if I do not seek, earnestly, to grow in my relationship with him.
He calls us to be his brothers and sisters, not his subjects.
He is not hidden behind palace walls but rather lives in our hearts.
He did not inherit his royalty but rather he earned it,
being crowned with the thorns of suffering
and nailed to the throne of his Cross:
all of this testimony to the truth of his love for us.
This morning we are invited to the King’s table, to his supper.
Here he invites us to share in that nourishment which is his life:
he offers us the Bread of Angels and the Cup of Salvation.
He comes to us today, not on the clouds of heaven
but in the simplicity of this meal which is the sacrifice of his life.
Pray that we open our hearts to enthrone our King
who gives us here a taste and a sip of that feast
which he has prepared for us in his kingdom
where his truth is forever and his peace is everlasting.
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Posted by Austin Fleming at 12:06 PM