Homily Christ the King 26th November 2023
It is certainly no accident that the image that is selected for the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the image that is meant to sort of sum up all the others, is that of Christ the King.
For most of us, royalty, majesty, speaks of the distance between the King and the ordinary people, how much unlike other people the king really is.
But for Christ, the title ‘king’ meant just the opposite. Christ is king because his life is so intimately bound up with our own. He is a king who rules from within. He doesn’t exercise power; he is power. He doesn’t govern the lives of his people; he is the lives of his people. Christ is the Lord of human history because, as St Paul puts it in the second reading, it is in Christ who draws together all the separate, diverse forces and energies in that history, giving them a single united purpose, a single united direction.
The bond between this king and his people is so total, so intimate, that any act of kindness and acceptance directed toward any one of his people is experienced by Christ himself. Any act of unkindness or hurt directed toward any one of his people is experienced by Christ himself. And the Gospel clearly expects us to take this quite literally. When Christ says, “What you do to them you do to me”, he is not using vague poetic symbols. He is rather revealing to us the deepest reality of all our human interaction, a truth we must take into consideration anytime we make a moral judgement, any time we decide how we are going to act in any particular situation.
So the moral decision for a Christian is not first, “how should I act toward this or that person?” The question is rather “How should I act toward Christ himself.”
And it is really only when we do begin to seriously ask that question, when we realise that Christ himself feels our kindness and is hurt by our offences, only then do our loving deeds become truly Christan.
When we finally begin to see Christ as the third party in every contact we have with other people, then we will begin to free ourselves from the need to be repaid for all our goodness, the need to be recognised, honoured, and rewarded for all the wonderful things we do.
As long as we are bound by that kind of desire our love is not Christian self-giving, it is simply a business deal.
Christ calls each one of us to a careful concern for the way we build our lives today, a careful concern for all the people that fill those lives…because whatever we do to one of them, we do to him.