Sermon in CR church, 23 November 2014. Christ the King

Year A: Ezek 34:11-16, Ephesians 1:15-23, Matt 25:31-46.

The encyclical that established the feast of Christ the King was addressed to Catholic bishops but in fact Pope Pius XI really wanted this feast to change the lives of the laity.

" The faithful, moreover, by meditating upon these truths, will gain much strength and courage, enabling them to form their lives after the true Christian ideal. If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God".

The re is really no need to say any more but the appointed readings tell us to what this sort of Kingship is to be like. First of all, Ezekiel tells the new King David will be a Shepherd, who will cherish the lost, the injured and the weak.

Significantly, the epistle is addressed to people in Ephesus . Ephesus was a power centre, both for human and divine authority. It was full of prestigious temples and a centre for government. We remember that it was the Hellenistic rulers, successors of Alexander, who took divine honours for themselves. The writer emphasises that God gives Christ supreme authority over all others: specifically pagan deities and all earthly rulers. It is to be exercised in favour of the lost, the injured, the weak. What would he have said of the alliance between state and church, from which both seemed to profit, from Constantine onwards?  It was only when the Pope saw that the state was taking, as it were, divine authority for itself, over against the church, that he insisted once again that Christ Himself is the only real, the only genuine, authority. Until then, it is clear that the church only too often colluded with the power of the State.

People brought up in Eastern Europe know this well. Following Micah 7:6, two of the Gospels quote Jesus foretelling how He would divide families: “Do you think I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, rather division. For henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. The y will be divided, father against son and son against father …” L uk e 12:51-52.  All the more painful, when the division was in secret, only revealed after the end of the Communist state.

How is it that New Testament writers could be so supremely confident that ALL authority in heaven and on earth is given to Jesus Christ? We, his followers, perhaps especially those who try to follow him in the Community of the Resurrection itself, are tempted to take the fact of the Resurrection for granted: after all it has been around for nearly  2000 years. Yet when it first hit the world, it was the supremely new, unprecedented, event. All these divinities, with their splendid Temples and stunning worship, all these rulers with their power, as they put it, over life and death, had never claimed to raise the dead. In fact they had the power of death, no more. The power of raising from the dead, no one could claim that. It is that, THE supreme, unprecedented, power, that God exercised in raising His Son, Son of David, Son of Man, Son of God and having raised Jesus from the dead, the Father hands over that same authority to Him.

Back to the Gospel passage for today. Jesus knows what is going to happen to Him and its consequences for His followers. He is speaking with confidence. He is not speaking of a distant Second Coming, at the end of time, at the end of the world. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory…” when He comes, then it will be that those who cherish his flock, His flock on earth, are rewarded, just as if they had actually cherished … Him, Jesus Himself. Jesus, Christ the King, is already ruling the world, in the here and now, taking note of how his brothers and sisters suffer now and rewards those who succour them.

Of course He doesn’t give money, or power, or an easy life - people running around at our beck and call. No. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them  be afraid.” John 14.27. We know from experience how some people are indeed like that, are at peace, are centres of peace, while those who pursue their own wicked purposes in this life, however much at first they seem to prosper, come to a pretty sticky end.

The re will indeed be a be a final complete Judgement, at the last day but Jesus is already ruling the world.

        Antony Grant CR