Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe in Year B 2018 at Christ the King Parish, North Rocks
Readings: Daniel 7:13-14; Apocalypse 1:5-8; Gospel John 18:33-37
24 November 2018
Brothers and Sisters,
Recently we have been graced with a royal visit. Despite their popularity, the monarchy is considered mostly an anachronism. It is old-fashioned. But then modern democracy does not always produce great figures, either. Some of them would lead you to conclude that the evolution of human society could go backwards.
Today, we celebrate the completion of our liturgical year with the Feast of Christ the King. It may not be an inspiring title in today’s world. However, it reminds us of the Kingdom vision which was at the heart of his Gospel message. It also frames our horizons with eschatological hope – a hope that galvanises us. As Paul reminds us in the Letter to the Ephesians: “In the fullness of time, God will bring everything together under the authority of Christ.”
The Word of God this Sunday speaks of a divine vision for humanity. This vision constitutes believers as an alternative society under God’s rule. God in Christ summons us to live and relate to each other in a way that is different to the competitive, ruthless, dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest ideology. Instead, we are called to build a new Kingdom in which the cosmic Christ is its beginning and end, its Alpha and Omega.
In the first reading, we hear a message of hope concerning the arrival of the messianic era. The Book of Daniel was written during the great turmoil in Israel. God’s people had returned from exile and had rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem.
But the peace was short-lived, and Israel quickly came under the yoke of a new taskmaster, the Roman Empire. There seemed to be no end in sight to the cycle of oppression and resistance. Yet, it was in the depth of despair that Daniel envisions a new future for his people.
Like Isaiah, Ezekiel before him or perhaps modern prophets after him like Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Daniel speaks of new universal brotherhood of the human family. He dreams of the day when all peoples, nations and languages led by “the one like a son of man” come together to worship the one true God. It is an extraordinary inclusiveness given Israel’s belief in its own special status. It is also a rejection of violence, dominance and power in favour of universal love and brotherhood.
Daniel challenges true believers not to give in to the despair that arises from the supposed impossibility of change. We may feel numbed and overwhelmed by the seemingly unchangeable status quo. But the prophet shows us that it is possible to reframe the harsh reality around us into a vision of hope. It is possible to act in such as way that facilitates the realisation of such vision.
As God’s faithful people, we must not be seduced into the imperial model of domination, rivalry and exclusion. Instead we must be an alternative society of solidarity, compassion and justice. We must act in favour of the messianic kingdom, that is, a community and brotherhood under God’s sovereignty.
Following the Book of Daniel, the Gospel story today presents a stark contrast between the imperial model represented by Pilate and the Kingdom vision of Jesus. It was a dramatic scene. Pilate mounted on his throne was totally in control and the epitome of worldly power. Jesus on the other hand was totally powerless and vulnerable. The contrast of power and vulnerability, prestige and wretchedness, fame and ignominy, success and failure could not be more striking.
Yet there was something beyond the naked eye for those who discern the truth. Just as at the scene of the crucifixion where the dying Jesus assured the repentant thief of God’s eventual triumph, here the Kingdom vision also shines through the darkness of hate. Here it is Jesus who judges and rejects Pilate’s imperial ideology built on violence, dominance and exclusion. In its place, he teaches and embodies a vision of an inclusive community, bound by a bond of communion, solidarity and service. “All who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.”
Brothers and sisters,
On this Feast of Christ the King, we are emboldened by his Kingdom vision. The Word of God challenges us to be people who refuse to be ruled by fear, paralysis and despair. Instead like Daniel and Jesus, we must learn to engender hope in despair, light in darkness and love in vulnerability.
We must have the courage to be a community of hospitality, compassion and neighbourliness that serves as an alternative to imperial ideologies which manifest in hate, discrimination, fear, oppression, power, violence, exploitation, cruelty et cetera.
In this time of collective soul searching and institutional repentance, the Church’s challenge isn’t about reclaiming its former power, prestige and affluence. Rather, our challenge is to embody the inclusive Kingdom vision of Jesus – one that is rooted in justice, compassion, solidarity and service.
Only by living that vision fully as the Body of Christ, can we become a lighthouse for the world. Let us renew our commitment to bring the Kingdom vision to birth in our parish community and beyond, confident of its fulfilment in the fullness of time.