Homily: Feast of Christ the King

Closing the Door of Mercy
20th November, 2016

Today is the last Sunday in the Church’s liturgical year, and the readings fix our attention on Jesus as lord and king of the whole of the created universe.

Today also, we close the door of Mercy, ending our Jubilee year of Mercy.

At times I am sure we all feel that we cannot escape from this noisy world, and our hearts and minds cannot pretend to be untouched by the ugliness that at times afflicts and oppresses us. We are invited today to look beyond all of this, to contemplate the one who is beautiful and true and all-powerful, and who reigns over all: Christ the King!

However, it is most important that we look for him in the right place. As Christians, if we want to look upon the one who is lord of all creation, we are to look at Jesus hanging on the cross. This is the Son of Man of whom the prophecy of Daniel speaks. He who reigns forever gloriously, is the one who identifies with the poor and oppressed and the marginalised of our world, against the powers of evil that oppress us. What does this tell us about our ideas of power, leadership and authority?

When we think of leadership, we are inclined to think first of those who are in charge - who have power to make decisions and to enforce them. In the Church, for example, we tend to think of the leaders as the Pope and the Bishops. Organisational leadership is, of course, very important. We are right to acknowledge the power and authority that goes with such positions, and we are right to try to ensure that those exercising such power are gifted to do it well.

However, there is a much more important lesson to be learned. The real leadership which we see when we look at the crucifixion is not organisational decision-making leadership. We do not look to the high priest, or to Pilate or Herod to see the real authority and power that stands out on the hill of Calvary.

The most important area for leadership lies in the area of love. Christ the king shows us that ultimate power is the power of love. Our lord and king is a victim of the unjust exercise of organisational leadership. But no one could stop him loving, and his self-giving love shines out in splendour from the cross. The love that flows from his pierced and broken heart, even from the cross, continues to reveal the power and mercy of God.

Today’s feast exhorts us not to lose our perspective. There are defects in the exercise of leadership in every community including, of course, the Catholic Church. Change takes time and a lot of courage, and we will bring about good change only in proportion to our love, for love is what God is, and love is what we see in the lord and king of history, reigning from the cross.

God loves us and respects us and attracts us to good, and he does so in a way that will never ever be conquered by evil. Love continues to suffer through to the truth. Love continues to create life and to forgive and to nurture in mercy.

The feast of Christ the King has implications for every aspect of our Church life. Its main message, however, is of the power of love and the mercy of God, in any and every circumstance of life. As we struggle for truth and for justice, let us learn from him to use only the weapons of love, as it is with love that Jesus continues to conquer the human heart.

As the Year of Mercy approaches its end point, one of the frequently asked questions is ‘What will happen when the Year of Mercy ends?’ Sometimes the response is that we will move on to another theme and that will be our focus. That would be so neat and tidy!

However, our reality is that whilst the formal Year of Mercy comes to an end, we are invited every day for the rest of our lives to celebrate mercy – God’s mercy to us, the mercy we receive from others, the mercy we share with others, the mercy we are challenged to show in our care of creation.

Our world cries out for mercy. So many, especially those on the margins, continue to live with insecurity, pain, anxiety, brokenness. Our creation groans for our mercy and we must never stop responding to Pope Francis’ question: “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” What if mercy was packed away in a neat package and ticked off our to-do list because the Year of Mercy is coming to an end?

God’s love is never ending and so, God’s mercy is never-ending. We are called to be ‘like God’. Our mercy and compassion towards others and creation must never cease. Whilst today we close of the Holy Door of Mercy, we must now open our own doors of mercy even more widely. Having had the opportunity to reflect on how gratuitously God has blessed us with mercy, even more now are we challenged to share that mercy with others.

As we symbolically close the Door of Mercy, in reality, let us push our own doors of mercy wide open; let us  be welcoming of all who come into our lives and let us take every opportunity to be women and men of mercy every day of our lives.

Finally, let us ask the Lord to remember us, in the certainty that by his mercy we will be able to share his glory in paradise. Let us go forward together on this road!