Monday, 23 November 2009

Christ the King Homily

We do not often read from the Fourth Gospel outside of the Purple and White seasons of the year, but Today’s Solemnity is an exception. John’s Gospel loves showing contrasting opinions and situations. It uses irony as an art form. There is the Gospel of the Man Born Blind who could clearly see better than the Pharisees. There is the Gospel of the Woman at the Well who was thirsty and the thirsty Jesus who himself was a Living Well. There is the Gospel where the soldiers came to arrest Jesus and fell on their faces before him.
The highest point of this use of irony is this Sunday’s passage about Jesus before Pilate. Pilate was the representative of Rome. His palace, his garb, his demeanour radiated the power of the Roman Empire. Jesus was a commoner, an itinerant preacher, a carpenter. So here was this weak Jesus, standing before the powerful Pilate. Was Pilate mocking Jesus or intrigued when he asked him, “Are you a king?” We don’t know. But we do know that Jesus’ answer bowled Pilate a googly: “You yourself say that I am a king. For this I have come, to testify to the truth.”
To testify to the truth. That is what true royalty is about. As servants of Christ the King we are to testify to the truth. It is all about integrity.
There is a great scene in the play A Man for All Seasons , a play about the determination of St. Thomas More to stand for the faith against the persuasion and eventually persecution of Henry VIII. In the scene I’m referring to Henry VIII is trying to coax his second in charge, Thomas More, to agree with him that it is proper for him, the King, to divorce his wife Queen Catherine. After the King made all his arguments, Thomas More said that he himself was unfit to meddle in this argument and the King should take it to Rome. Henry VIII retorted that he didn’t need a pope to tell him what he could or couldn’t do. Then we come to the centre point. Thomas More asks the King, “Why do you need my support?” Henry VIII replies with words we would all love to hear said about each of us, “Because, Thomas, you are honest. And what is more to the point, you are known to be honest. There are plenty in the Kingdom who support me, but some do so only out of fear and others only out of what they can get for their support. But you are different. And people know it. That is why I need your support.”
In the presence of integrity, Henry VIII knew who was King and who was subject.
Thomas More and so many others followed Jesus Christ in being people of integrity. The powerful Pilate could have Jesus tortured and killed, and he did, but Pilate himself remained a prisoner because he lived a lie. And Jesus remained a King because he testified to the truth to his last breath. He testified to the truth in the face of danger, power and opposition. So did the martyr Thomas More. As citizens of His kingdom we must do the same. “Then you are a King?” Pilate asked. And Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this was I testify to the truth.”
This gospel, this feast of Christ the King reminds us that each of us was born for this same reason: to testify to the truth. And what is the truth? Jesus Christ is the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.

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