Saturday, November 20, 2010

Homily for Christ the King, 2010

This it the text of the homily I plan to deliver tomorrow in my parishes.

I ran across a story recently about Dorothy Day. She was the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. She was very much aware of the need for social justice in the world. After the Second Vatican Council allowed parts of the Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular, or tongue of the people, she was pleased to say the least. Yet, she still saw a difference between the sacred and mundane. It seems that one day, a priest saying Mass for her group at a soup kitchen took a simple coffee cup to use as the chalice. Dorothy was greatly offended. After the Mass she took the coffee cup, kissed it and buried it so that it would no longer be used for the mundane. That cup had held the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Dorothy knew that this cup was no longer just a cup and did not want it to be confused as such. As I read from the person telling this story, “ I learned more about the Eucharist that day than I had from any book or sermon. It was a learning experience for the priest as well—thereafter he used a chalice.”

Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King. In our Gospel reading we hear the story of Jesus own crucifixion. Above him there was an inscription that read, "This is the King of the Jews." Two criminals were also crucified with Jesus. One demanded that Jesus should show his kingship and save them all. The other, realizing a bit more about Jesus made a simpler request, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

The first criminal wanted to bring Jesus down to his level. He saw this king as a way out of the problem in which he found himself. His real focus was on himself – on his escape from the suffering and death he was about to face.

The second saw something greater and hoped to be raised up to the dignity of a person sharing in Christ’s kingdom. One was focused on the here and now while the other was being drawn to a far greater reality.

Many times in our daily lives, we fail to recognize Christ as King, but tend to see him more as a friend. We’ve brought him down to our earthly existence and we fail to focus on the heavenly banquet to which we are called. We can even see it sometimes in our celebration of the Mass. Our focus becomes about ourselves. I can’t help but think of the lyrics of a song that appears in popular hymnal, We Are the Church. This song focuses not on God, (Father, Son nor Holy Spirit), nor on Mary or one of the great saints. If focuses on us. The refrains is,
“We are the Church, the Body of Christ. We are the Church, a people redeemed. We are the Church, anointed to serve God’s Holy People, the People of God.”

The focus of this song is upon us and our earthly existence. The closest we come to actually acknowledging God’s role is to have him say, “Live in my marvelous light.” But the whole song sounds like it is all us doing the work.

Let’s contrast that to “To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King”.
To Jesus Christ, our Sovereign King
Who is the world’s salvation.
All praise and homage do we bring,
and thanks and adoration,
Christ Jesus, Victor
Christ Jesus, Ruler
Christ Jesus, Lord and Redeemer

This song truly directs our hearts and minds to a greater reality, that of Christ who is the ruler and king of our lives.

I think the sense of the mundane that has made an appearance in many Masses has caused us to forget that in the Mass, heaven and earth are united in the great banquet of heaven. The eternal sacrifice that was achieved on Cavalry is made present here and is offered for the forgiveness of our sins. We forget who it is that is present in so many ways during the course of the Mass. It is Christ who is present as we gather. It is Christ who is present as the Word is proclaim. It is Christ who, through the priest, transforms the bread and wine into his body, blood, soul and divinity. It is Christ who is most especially present on the altar. The Mass is not about us, but about getting beyond the ordinary to the extra-ordinary. It is about recognizing our Lord and King.

Yesterday, Bishop Conley, an auxiliary bishop from Denver, gave a talk on the translation of the new Roman Missal to the music people of that archdiocese. According to an article on the Catholic News Agency web page, Bishop Conley stated,

God “makes it possible for us, though we are but creatures, to sing and worship with the angels” – an awe-inspiring task for which household objects, popular music, and casual language are inappropriate. Bishop Conley indicated that many attempts to make worship feel more familiar, have instead made it less inspiring.

The use of a sacred vocabulary directs our hearts to the beyond. The occasional use of elements not common in the normal routine of our lives such as Latin, incense and bells will tell us something different is happening here than what is happening when we are in the store, or the beauty parlor, or even the bar.

I hope that over the next year, as we prepare to implement the translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, we’ll approach it with a new sense of awe and wonder.

Dorothy Day took the cup and buried it because the wine it once contained had become Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity, and the cup was now holy and sacred, not fit to be used for the mundane, but to be buried as sacred. She was able to recognize that there is truly a difference between the ordinary and extra-ordinary.

The inscription over the head of Jesus read, “This is the King of the Jews.” One criminal tried to lower Jesus to his way of life and demand that Jesus save them from death on the cross. The other looked ahead and asked to be with Jesus when he comes into his kingdom. We too look forward, but realize that as Jesus said, “today you will be with me in Paradise”, we are experiencing a taste of that Paradise as we worship God at this Eucharistic table where heaven and earth unite.
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