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Christ The King - November 26, 2017

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          There is a story told of a king, well-loved and honored, who wanted to see how his subjects were treating each other.  Disguised as a street sweeper, he went into town, where he was ignored and insulted.  Very few of the villagers were charitable to him.  He went back to the palace and complained to his officers: “This must change; we need to treat each person with decency.”  A month later, he disguised himself again, this time as a poor beggar, and returned to the village.  To his surprise, he was treated with unusual respect and honor.  At one point a man said: “Good morning, your Highness.”  The king realized he had been recognized!  His officials had spread the word that the king, in disguise, was present in the midst of the people, and that made all the difference.  The people were now treating every stranger as if he may be the king.  If we remain aware that we are in the presence of Christ the King, no matter how lowly or unworthy he looks, we will behave very differently.

          I have been doing Confirmation interviews and asking those who will be Confirmed on December 6, 2017, by our Bishop, to name the gifts of the Holy Spirit they will receive in this Sacrament.  The morale of that story and today’s Feast honoring Jesus as King of the Universe both point to what we used to call the gift of Reverence, which is now called Piety.  I like reverence better because piety in English also means an act of devotion, such as praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Reverence is what God deserves from us in all Three Persons of the Trinity.  We also live in a culture which has forgotten the need to treat each other with reverence and respect because we are all created in God’s image and because by virtue of our Baptism and every time we receive Holy Communion, we have the presence of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ dwelling within us.

          If you read the USCCB’s definition of what it means to be ProLife, it is easy to realize that Reverence is at the heart of the “seamless thread/garment” (Cardinal Bernardine) of a ProLife ethic which calls us to not only oppose abortion, euthanasia and the Capital Punishment, but also see the dignity of all of those in need, including our Immigrants.  In fact, Jesus specifically mentions that we will be judged on whether or not we welcome the “stranger” among us.  He meant as you find in the Book of Deuteronomy as well, the “stranger” is a resident alien or immigrant.  This part of our moral life on which we will be judged may challenge many views regarding our Hispanic Immigrants.  Unless we are of Native American Indian lineage, all of our Ancestors who formed our great nation came for the same reasons as our modern immigrants: to flee oppression, danger and corrupt governments, and to make a better living for themselves and families.  And our Ancestors were illegal immigrants who killed countless Native American Indians to take ownership of the land we call the United States of America.  I fail to understand, especially in light of today’s Gospel, the significance of the terminology of “legal” or “illegal” immigrants.  I do understand that our Government wants to impede the entrance of terrorists into our Country, but to make the connection that all undocumented immigrants should not be here because of the likelihood of a few terrorists being among them makes absolutely no sense to me.  Closer to home is the inspiration our Hispanic Community brings to so many of us.  (Because Fr. Timothy recently preached about being properly “dressed for Mass” a few weeks ago when we had the Gospel about the Wedding Feast, I did not broach that subject in my English Homilies, but I did in Spanish.  I spoke about the Reverence owed God at Mass and the lack thereof in the manner that many people dress to come to Mass.  I made the point that I am not speaking about those who come directly from work or can’t afford Polo Shirts and nice slacks, but those who dress as if they are going to a night club rather than to be with Jesus, Christ the King.  I specifically addressed women who wear blouses and even kneel to receive Communion that when I look down to give them Communion, there is barely nothing of their breasts that I cannot see.  I prefaced that part of the Homily by sharing a conversation I had with Paula about what she wore to do prison ministry.  I told them that I asked her to please wear blouses which show no cleavage because the inmates were ogling at her when I was speaking.  I even joked that I told her to dress like a Woman Religious, “Nun.”)    

          Judgment Day is not a very comfortable thing to think about!  Yet that is the theme of today’s Gospel.    Jesus tells his disciples that on Judgment Day he will come with his angels to separate all peoples, like sheep and goats.  I think presumed is the importance of avoiding sins of commission – especially against the 10 commandments.  But Jesus is teaching us that there are two sides to the moral life.  One is to avoid sin; the other is to do good things for the most vulnerable and most needy – the stranger/alien, the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, and those ill and imprisoned.  Jesus teaches us that the laws of our faith are not just arbitrary things that we must simply obey with no connection to love.  Love is not just first among many laws; it is the source and substance of every law.  Sadly it is rare in confession to hear, “I don’t do enough for those in need.” Nor have I heard, “My prejudices or racism or fears or resentments keep me from welcoming the stranger – our immigrants or homosexuals or alcoholics recovering or not or prostitutes, and that list goes on. “

I have to thank this community from the bottom of my heart though.  From our support and leadership with Catholic Charities and CAP who feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, cloth the naked, give drink to the thirsty, to our visits of the sick and homebound,  to our prison ministry, to those 24 who went to Honduras this past June, and so many others of this community give so generously to those in need mentioned in today’s Gospel, I am deeply grateful and so very proud.  Like many parishes though, sadly, only about 30-40% share their time, talent and treasure.  What is going on with the other 60-70%?  I am not addressing those who have good and legitimate reasons, but those who believe that it is fine not to return thanks to our God after we receive His Son’s Body and Blood, which was broken and spilled that we may be forgiven, made whole and have Eternal Life. 

Throughout Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus makes it clear that if you love your neighbor, you love God; and if you love God, you love your neighbor.   When we love and do good things, we are sharing God’s gifts to us.  As we heard last week, when we don’t share, there will be trouble.  If you are just a goat, it is never too late to become a sheep – blessed by God the Father and welcomed into the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world!