Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflection
Solemnity of Christ the King (Year A)
November 23, 2008

We all have had the experience of something we so dearly cared for which we lost or misplaced at some time or other in our lives. It may be an object to which we have attached a deep sentimental value. The more we cared for it, the more we missed it and looked for it. This is all the more true for persons who are important to us for one reason or another.

The depth and intensity of caring, the love and solicitude for persons – these are what distinguish a genuine leader from a role or bit player. The depth of concern a leader has, the readiness he or she shows for selfless service – these are what make a King, more than just a king, but a servant leader, a figure worth emulating and looking up to for total support, not just someone to fill up our need for someone to rule over us.

Our experience of loss, along with the confusion that such entails, especially in most painful personal losses like to the loss of loved ones and persons most important to us, the reality of failed friendships and broken relationships – all sorts of losses that strike hard and deep into the core of our personhood, at times so heart-rending that they may shake us to the core – are, in reality a picture of what we all are in the eyes of God. Born as we all are with the stain of original sin, we were all lost. We are all sinners. “All men have fallen short of God’s glory.”

The figure of Christ, the King that the liturgy today presents is a study in contrasts. Popular reckoning would place the figure of a king seated on a mighty throne, possessing might and power and sovereignty. Indeed, the language of the Gospel text today could easily be misread in favor of such an image of a king, lording it over the whole of creation. Whilst such an image of Christ, as Lord of all creation would not be heretical, such does not seem to be the main focus of the readings today. I would not be at home with the idea of dwelling on such a triumphalistic – if, a little irrelevant – image of Jesus as king.

In fact, the passage from Ezekiel speaks more of a shepherd-leader who would “look after and tend” sheep. Ezekiel speaks of a God who would “pasture and guide” and who would “seek out the lost” and “bring back the strayed,” “bind up the injured,” and “heal the sick.” This is definitely not the language of strong leadership, but that of deep caring and loving solicitude.

This is the image of Christ, the shepherd-king, the servant-leader who seeks out the lost, and who, therefore, finds us. We were once lost, but we are found over and over again, by Christ. We are lost, but found!

Being person-oriented, we Filipinos find it hard to accept leaders who are too bossy, too result-oriented, too authoritarian and who, otherwise, comes in too strong all the time. We love leaders who are a bit condescending in a good sense, who brushes shoulders with the rank and file, who show personal concern for our welfare. Rightly or wrongly, we easily take to the style of populist leaders who act more like one of us, rather than one who strikes us as too detached, aloof, and uncaring.

I would like to think that today’s readings paint this other side of the picture of Christ as our King and Lord. We are given the tender side of servant-leadership that highlights the traits of caring and solicitude of the divine shepherd. Without falling into the trap of mushiness and maudlin sentimentalism, the readings also apprise us of the nature of God to seek out the least, the last, the lowest and the lost. A very clear current of predilection for the poor, the sick, the widows and orphans is readily visible in Biblical tradition. Against this, there is no convincing argument. God loves the poor, the lowly. He even declared them blessed, along with those who suffer for righteousness’ sake, and other beatitudes. God is on the side of those who mourn, who suffer, who are downtrodden, or who are brokenhearted.

We all know what it means to lose something or someone, whether temporarily or permanently. We also know what it means to be lost, to be forsaken, as when we feel people ignore us, or do not take us seriously, or who just do not seem to appreciate who or what we are. Few of us cannot lay claim to the experience of being somewhat denigrated and looked down upon by others, or who may have been downright put down by some who may feel superior to us in some way – real or imagined. Whether our subjective feelings may be based on reality or perception does not really matter. What matters is the reality of what we feel, which is in a very real sense our own.

The feast of Christ, the King who comes to the rescue of the lost, like we once were, and still we all are at some time or other, fills us with no small consolation. Our God is a gracious and loving God, who seeks out the lost, who heals the sick and pastures his sheep.

As we bask in this deeply consoling truth, however, there is equal need for us to pay attention to another reality that we need to prepare for – the end time. This King who is servant-leader, is pictured by the Gospel as he who would separate the sheep from the goats. He has a mission to fulfill. Knowing, as we do through faith, that when he comes again, indeed as King, in the end-time, we will be well advised to be prepared “for we do not know the day nor the hour.” The thought of his coming need not foster fear in our hearts, but love, for as shepherd-king, he will come not to enslave us, but to liberate us. He will come not so much to punish us, as to deal out justice to us. And biblically, God’s justice has always been equated with his mercy. God is infinitely just, as he is infinitely merciful. For once we were lost, but now are found by no less than Christ our King who, Francis Thompson aptly refers to as the Hound of Heaven. Like a hound, a hunting dog, he goes “through the nights, and through the days; he goes through the labyrinthine ways” all in search for his beloved – the last, the least, the lowest, and the lost – which we all were and are one time or other, as we journey through the highways and byways of life.

I would like to share with you this beautiful prayer from Melanie Svoboda. It refers to a God, who is ever searching for us, asking us, as he did Adam, “Where are you?”

God, you ask me,
“Where are you?”
And I reply,
“What need have I to tell you where I am,
when you know, who know the whole of life,
know better where I am than I?”
And you reply, “That’s true. I do.”
But then you add,
“But do you know where you are?”
And I confess, “I don’t.”
And quickly add:
“I think I hide from you and from myself,
with all the things I have to do
or choose to do.
And things can sometimes stand between
The who I am and the who I want to be,
And the who you want me to be.”
“You’re right,” you say.
And then it all comes clear to me,
What I must do to become the who
We both want me to be:
I must walk with you and talk with you,
In the warmth of the morning sun,
Or in the cool of the evening breezes.
God, when you ask, “Where are you?”
May my answer always be:
“With you, my God. With you.”


chrissyrudd said…
That is such a beautiful poem! Isn't it funny that He knows exactly what you need to hear to get your attention? Thank you.

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