Celebrating our Faith during COVID-19
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November 22, 2020
[Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Pearl City]
What a mess we are in! One of the most contentious presidential elections in our history is almost three weeks behind us, and many are saying it is not over yet, while others are saying, “Get over it!” Some have been saying for four years now, “Trump is not my President!”, while some are now saying “Biden will never be my President!” We are all on pins and needles about the spread of the coronavirus, with its devastating effects on our emotional health and our economy. We live in a world where we do not really know what truth is, since there are so many conflicting and often compelling claims to truth. We hear daily of the corruption of our leaders, whether the shepherds of the Church or our political and business leaders. There is civil unrest in many of our cities and fear of more to come. What a mess we are in!
In the midst of all this chaos and cacophony some think we are the most naïve of people to gather together and to celebrate Christ as our King. If Christ is our King, where is the evidence of it? If he is ruling over the world in his kingdom of justice, love and peace, why are we experiencing so much injustice, hatred, and contention? Are we just engaging in some kind of fantasy to apply an opiate to the sufferings of life that are so clearly evident?
From what I know of the people in our Church, I would say definitively that you are people of great faith, who believe what is not always seen and who hope for a reality that is not always evident. You are here today to celebrate and proclaim not just that Christ will be our King some time in the future when all our problems are solved and all the strife is stifled. No, you are here because you know that Jesus Christ is King today. And it is this faith alone, sometimes seeming to be so naïve, that will ultimately bring peace to our troubled world. We may not realize it, but we are doing more than any prelate, politician or potentate could do to heal the world of all its ills simply by gathering to proclaim that Christ is King. It is a saving message the world needs so much, and it is essential for the welfare of the world.
There are at least two realities about Christ as King that are worthy of our reflection. One is the one expressed in today’s Gospel from the 25th chapter of Matthew, that paying homage to our king is equivalent to the acts of kindness and love we show to others. This outreach to the hungry and thirsty, to the lonely and the sick takes us out of ourselves and counters our tendency to make ourselves gods, which, of course, is the root of our enmity toward anyone who challenges our supposed claim to divinity. It is in serving others that we become most like our King, who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life for us. It is in the simplicity of these kind deeds, many of which we are not even aware of, that our King receives the homage he is due. Songs of praise are wonderful, acts of worship are important, but they are all empty if we do not honor Jesus risen and present among us by honoring the least of our brothers and sisters in their needs. The praise we offer here is essential, yet it resounds with authenticity when we serve the most needy as our King and Shepherd came to do.
Another reality worthy of our reflection is that this King did not come in royal splendor, with servants and a luxurious lifestyle, sitting upon a royal throne. That will come later, at the end of time. Rather he came into a world so messy with sin, oppression, pride, and corruption that he wanted to immerse himself into it, poisoning all these diabolical realities with the power of his love. He was not a King who was afraid to get his hands dirty or who desired to sit in sanitized safety, but one who “smelled like the sheep,” as Pope Francis would say, becoming like us in all things but sin. The corruption did in fact hurt him. The lies did in fact turn against him. The hatred did indeed kill him. But because he was willing to suffer it all for us, his hope for what no one could have imagined was fulfilled when he was raised from the dead, thus destroying death, the last enemy of his beloved sheep. It is this death and resurrection that we celebrate whenever we gather for this Sacred Banquet of the Eucharist, in which our King is not enthroned in some distant and inaccessible palace but enters our own sinful and humble hearts. He thus strengthens our hope for what is not yet seen, but that we believe with firm certainty: that this mired, misguided, and messy world is even now subjected to God, so that God may be all in all. Jesus calls us to be the little leaven that will poison perdition forever and fill the world with the living bread of life.
In the midst of the great mess we find ourselves in, there is nothing wiser than joining our hearts and voices to proclaim that Jesus Christ is King!