Homily for the 34th Sunday in ordinary time
Christ the King
2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43
Saint John Baptist de la Salle/Saint Stephen November 20,2022
Two weeks ago, I went down to the beach with Fr. John Hoover. Some of you saw him at Mass with me on that Sunday. We stopped to get gas and something to drink and I bought a Power Ball ticket. There was a woman in line ahead of me, she was also buying tickets. When we went outside, she was getting into her car that was parked next to mine. "I hope you win, I said, and she laughed, "I never buy those tickets," she said, "but with a prize of 1.9 billion, well you might as well take a chance." "I always wanted the power that that much money would give you." "Aren't you happy with your life," I asked, and she looked surprised by my question. "Yes, I'm very happy," she said, "Well if you win it's going to change your life," I said, “and that will be good or it will be bad, because everything we do or don't do, changes our life."
Once a King, always a King. Our modern conception of public rule is quite different than that of our ancient ancestors. We think of those who rule primarily in terms of function, it is something that they do, not who they are. Some people rise to power because of what they do, and then try to show that the choice was God's or, at the least, fate. Other people have power passed on to them, their father was King and now they are King. However, how, or why a person becomes a King does change their life. The Feast of Christ the King is not a very old celebration in our Church. It was created in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. The idea that power came from the people alone, independent of God's will, was sweeping through the world. The Church tried to change that way of thinking but failed. An answer may lie in the saying, "Once a King, always a King." We argue over how people obtain power. Does it come from ancestry or from the people themselves? Whether on the battlefield or in the ballot box, we struggle for power. In all these forms, we distinguish power itself from those who possess it.
Yet there is no distance between what Jesus does and who he is. Jesus is the presence and power of God among us. But Jesus reigns as King by not grasping power. Jesus is an eternal sacrifice, and what he does is to surrender power, not to his enemies but to his Father, who willed that he should enter death itself. The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, "He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God" Even the soldiers jeered at him. As the approached to offer him wine they called out, "If you are King of the Jews, save yourself." Above him was an inscription that read, "This is the King of the Jews." In Saint Luke's Gospel the deepest of truths is revealed. Jesus is King because as others have done on the battlefields have done he leads the way. Jesus enters into the darkness to assail evil itself. The King dies so that his people may live. What does this mean for us? It means our happiness, our personal wellbeing, is accomplished not in seizing power but in surrendering it, even if we win the Power Ball. No one should yield power to a tyrant. But as we live in the shadow of the cross, we must always ask ourselves this personal question, "Am I the tyrant?" Am I the one who insists upon my own will? To follow our King through the darkness and into the light, to someday reign with him, is to surrender power, not seize it.