A storm devastates a town; a fire reduces a neighborhood to burnt timber and ashes; an act of terrorism cuts a wide and bloody swath through a community. That’s when they go to work: skilled medical professionals, tireless construction workers, patient and gifted counselors, compassionate volunteers. These dedicated souls work around the clock to care for the hurt and injured, rescue those in danger, help the traumatized cope, and begin the hard work of rebuilding. By their very presence, these good people transform the debris and ashes into the kingdom of Jesus.
The tired old downtown building has seen better days but no better use. The city’s churches have worked together to turn the brick structure into a community center, a safe place where children can come to play basketball, receive tutoring, or just hang out after school. The well-stocked pantry provides for dozens of hungry families every week; a free clinic offers basic on-site medical care and referral services to the poor and uninsured. Its meeting rooms are always busy: the elderly have a place to go for companionship and immigrants are taught how to master the language of their new homeland. In this austere brick building, Jesus reigns.
The kingdom of Jesus is not found in the world’s centers of power but within human hearts; it is built not by deals among the power elite but by compassionate hands; Christ reigns neither by influence nor wealth but by generosity and justice. A politician and influential figure like Pilate cannot grasp the “kingship” of Jesus -- but we who have been baptized in the life, death and resurrection of Christ are called to build and maintain that kingdom in our own time and place. Christ’s reign is realized only in our embracing a vision of humankind as a family made in the image of God, a vision of one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, a vision of the world centered in the spirit of hope and compassion taught by Christ.
The first reading from the Book of Daniel continues to speak in apocalyptic terms like last Sunday’s reading. The prophet is speaking to the people who were disillusioned about the kings who ruled over them. They were despots and did not care for the people. To these people who were losing hope, the prophet says: Your God is coming to you, your King is coming to you. He will come to save you. Yes, He is Lord and King but different from earthly rulers. The point of the reading is that God is coming to his people. The Son of man will come to bring hope to his people, and his kingdom will never end, this hope no one can take away.
Give us a king!
Kings and Queens do not exist today and those that do are remnants and no longer functional. But Kings and Queens do exist in fairy tales and in stories. Indeed when people were in need and badly off, they always started to tell stories of a king who would reign in such a way that good times would return, everybody would be happy and there would be prosperity and peace. The Hebrews had that dream and desire during their history. When they had difficulties they would pray: "Yahweh, give us a king." And when they had one who was more part of the problem than part of the solution, they would pray again: "Yahweh, give us a king, a new one, a real one. The one we have is fake!" They yearned for a real king.
Joseph Donders in 'Praying and Preaching the Sunday Gospel'
The Gospel reading goes on to stress how different this Jesus King is from the kings of the earth, totally different, a sign of contradiction. The whole idea of Christ being king does not come up at the height of his popularity but at the moment when everyone, all his disciples and followers have abandoned him. When he seems to be powerless at that moment he claims kingship. "Yes I am a king. I was born for this; I came into the world for this. His kingship consists in bearing witness to the truth; "all who are on the side of truth will listen to my voice." In the Gospel we see the Kingship of Jesus contrasted with worldly power. Pontius Pilate was the Governor of Judea, a powerful man who questioned Jesus to judge his innocence or guilt. Yet it would seem that Jesus is questioning Pilate and made to face the truth. Pilate is ill at ease while Jesus is the one who is in control. Jesus points out that his kingship is not in the realm of political power. His kingdom is not of this world. Jesus has surrendered all power -He came not to be served but to serve. Today this King invites us to serve those in need. As followers of this King we are challenged if we wish to be part of his kingdom. His Kingdom does not belong to this world and its values. Can we surrender power? Can we let go of the desire to control others? Instead of wanting to be served, to let others know who the 'boss' is that we can serve? Are we people of the Kingdom? We do not have to wait for the last judgement to find out if we are people who live according to the values of His Kingdom. We are constantly being tested by people, situation and events to prove if we are people for God and of God, people who believe in service and in action. Our lives are our greatest witness. Would there be sufficient evidence in our lives for us to be condemned as followers of the Lord Jesus today?
The Story...our story
Soren Kierkegaard a philosopher and theologian tells a story about a king who fell in love with a peasant girl. The king knew that it was next to impossible for him to marry the girl. But this king was so powerful that he knew he could marry the girl and get away with it. But another thought occurred to him. If he married the peasant girl and stayed king, there would always be something missing in their relationship. The girl would always admire the king, but she could never really love him. She would always be conscious of the fact that he was royalty and she was merely a lowly peasant. So the king decided on another plan. He decided that he would resign his kingship and become a lowly peasant himself. Then he would offer his love to her as one peasant to another. The king realized, of course, that if he did this, the situation could backfire. She might reject him, especially if she thought him foolish for doing what he did. The king finally decided that he loved the peasant girl so much that he would risk everything to make true love between them possible. Kierkegaard never told how the story ended. He had two reasons for not telling how the story ended. Firstly the point of his story was the king's love for the lowly peasant girl. It was so great that he renounced his royalty and his throne for her. The second reason why Kierkegaard never told how the story ended is that the story has not ended yet. It is still going on. It is a story whose ending has not been written. It is the story of God's love for each one of us. The King in the story is God; the girl in the story is us. Only we can write the end of that story! What will it be???
Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'
The interview is over!
The story is told of a man who traveled to London to attend an interview for an important post in the security services. When he arrived at the appointed place he found five other applicants in the waiting room, all discussing their prospects. There was no security on duty. A sign on the wall stated that applicants were to knock and enter the interview room at fifteen-minute intervals, beginning at eleven o'clock. They were to leave the interview room by another door, so the nature of the questioning could be kept secret. The applicants discussed this strange arrangement; they reflected on what questions they might be asked; they wondered what qualities would be needed for the post. At eleven o'clock, one of them who said he had been the first to arrive went to the door of the interview room, knocked and entered. The remaining five men continued to discuss various matters among themselves. So, the time passed. At quarter past twelve the last man to arrive rose from the chair, walked over to the door of the interview room, knocked and entered. When he stepped into the room he was confused by what he saw. Behind the large oak table that dominated the room sat his interviewers: they were the same five men who had been in the waiting room. The interview was already over! We believe our final interview with the Lord will be on judgement day. In reality it has begun! "What you did to the least of my brethren you did unto me."
"I am ready for your Kingdom"
Once a village blacksmith had a vision, an angel of the Lord came to him and said "The Lord has sent me. The time has come for you to take up your place in his kingdom." "I thank God for thinking of me" said the blacksmith, "but as you know, the season for sowing crops will soon be here. The people of the village will need their ploughs repaired, and their horses shod. I don't wish to seem ungrateful, but do you think I might put off my place in the kingdom until I have finished?" The angel looked at him in the wise and loving ways of angels. "I'll see what can be done" he said and vanished. The blacksmith continued with his work and was almost finished when he heard of a neighbour who fell ill in the middle of the planting season. The next time he saw the angel, the blacksmith pointed towards the barren fields and pleaded with the angel, "Do you think eternity can hold off a little longer? If I don't finish this job, my friend's family will suffer." Again the angel smiled and vanished. The blacksmith's friend recovered, but another's barn burnt down, and a third was deep in sorrow at the death of his wife. And a fourth, and so on. Whenever the angel reappeared, the blacksmith just spread out his hands in a gesture of resignation and compassion, and drew the angel's eyes to where the suffering was. One evening the blacksmith began to think of the angel, and how he'd put him off for such a long time. He felt very old and tired and he prayed "Lord if you would like to send your angel again, I think I would like to see him now." He'd no sooner spoken than the angel stood before him. "If you want to take me" said the blacksmith, "I am now ready to take my place in the kingdom of the Lord." The angel of the Lord looked at the blacksmith, and smiled, as he said, "Where do you think you have been all these years?"Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel Truth'
Film -Cool Hand Luke- A Good thief
Luke is a happy-go-lucky ex-serviceman who, while drunk, damages public property and is sentenced to prison for two years. He seems to live a charmed life because he is always smiling. At first the other prisoners dislike him but his attitude eventually wins over his fellow convicts. Life is harsh in prison but Luke enables others to keep going because he refuses to bend to the arbitrary authority of the bosses. Luke escapes twice but is caught and tortured and is ultimately shot and bleeds to death because the bosses refuse to let him be taken to the nearest hospital. The authorities have killed Luke but his spirit lives on in the stories and memories of the prisoners. The character of Luke can be seen as a Good Thief as well as a Christ-figure. The movie tells us about Luke's irresponsibility and inability to settle down. Going to prison does not seem to bother him, but the injustices that he experiences and the brutal treatment that is meted out to him there take their toll. Despite this he keeps up the morale of the other prisoners. Luke's life culminates in what seems to be his arbitrary death. Once again, Luke can be seen as a Christ-figure because he suffers torment so that others may have life, even if only through encouragement to survive prison. Just as Luke's story was told and re-told by the prisoners, so the story of the Good Thief has become part of Jesus' own story and has been told and re-told for thousands of years, giving courage to the fainthearted and strength to the weak.
Peter Malone in 'Lights Camera... Faith!'
1. Background: Fr. Andrew Greeley
2. “Who’s on first?”
4. Ordinary People
"The fundamental reason why Jesus has to die makes the question of responsibility for his assassination pointless. Every society, Jewish or Gentile, that is founded on money, power, and law, condemns him. He puts people first, making economics and politics less important than men and women. In contrast, society, even when it says the opposite, deceiving others as well as itself, considers individuals simply as a means." (Sulivan, Morning Light, p. 75)
John C. Purdy, God with a Human Face
From Fr. Tony Kadavil:
1) “He is something more than a king.”
In Lloyd Douglas’ book, The Robe, the slave, Demetrius, pushed his way through the crowd on Palm Sunday, trying to see who the center of attraction was. He got close enough to look upon the face of Jesus. Later another slave asked, “See him – close up?” Demetrius nodded. “Crazy?” Demetrius shook his head emphatically. “King! No,” muttered Demetrius, “not a king.” “What is he then?” demanded the other slave. “I don’t know,” mumbled Demetrius, “but he is something more than a king.”
2) “Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!”
Of thirty Roman emperors, governors of provinces and others in high office, who distinguished themselves by their fanatical zeal and bitterness in persecuting the early Christians, one became mentally deranged; another was slain by his own son. One of them became blind; another was drowned. One was strangled; another died in miserable captivity. One of them died of so loathsome a disease that several of his physicians were put to death because they could not abide the stench that filled his room. Two committed suicide; another attempted it but had to call for help to finish the work. Five were assassinated by their own people or servants, five others died the most miserable and excruciating deaths and eight were killed in battle, or after being taken prisoners. Among those who died in battle was Julian the Apostate. In the days of his prosperity he is said to have pointed his dagger to heaven, defying the Son of God whom he commonly called the Galilean. But when he was wounded in battle and saw that all was over with him, he gathered up his clotted blood and threw it into the air, exclaiming, “Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!” (
3) A Man for All Seasons:
There is a great scene in the play that fits very well with today’s feast of Christ the King. You might remember that the play was about the determination of St. Thomas More to stand for the faith against the persuasion and eventually persecution of Henry VIII of England. 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 Catherine since she was also his sister-in-law and since she had not given birth to a male heir to the Kingdom. 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 center point. Thomas More asked the King, “Why do you need my support?” Henry VIII replied 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.
4) The shivering and hungry king:
There is a story about an Irish king. He had no children to succeed him on the throne. So he decided to choose his successor from among the people. The only condition set by the king, as announced throughout his kingdom, was that the candidate must have a deep love for God and neighbor. In a remote village of the kingdom lived a poor but gentle youth who was noted for his kindness and helpfulness to all his neighbors. The villagers encouraged him to enter the contest for kingship. They took up a collection for him so that he could make the long journey to the royal palace. After giving him the necessary food and a good overcoat, they sent him on his way. As the young man neared the castle, he noticed a beggar sitting on a bench in the royal park, wearing torn clothes. He was shivering in the cold while begging for food. Moved with compassion, the young man gave the beggar his new overcoat and the food he had saved for his return journey. After waiting for a long time in the parlor of the royal palace, the youth was admitted for an interview with the king. As he raised his eyes after prostrating before the king, he was amazed to find the king wearing the overcoat he had given to the beggar at the park, and greeting him as the new king of the country. When he comes in glory, Christ the King is going to judge us on the basis of our corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
6) Co-pilot Christ the king:
Many people love bumper sticker theology. Bumper stickers may not always have the soundest theological statements, but they generally at least have the ability to make you think. One such, “God is my Co-pilot," has also been found on church signs, where the theology is just as much fun and sometimes sounder. In this case, the Church sign says, "If Christ the King is your Co-Pilot, change seats."