Sunday, November 21, 2021

To enter the Kingdom requires radical conversion (Christ the King homily)

 Today is the feast of Christ the King and then we go into Advent.

I know you’ve heard people say, 

Advent is about preparing for Christmas.

But the truth is, Advent isn’t primarily about Christmas.

When you hear the readings next week,

they are going to sound a lot like this week’s readings,.

and they aren’t about the birth of Jesus.

Rather, we heard just now about the end of time,

when Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last,

brings down the final curtain on this world.

The truth is, Advent does NOT point to Christmas.

Advent and Christmas both point to what today is about: the Kingdom.

So, I decided that would be a good theme for a series of homilies.

As we head toward Christmas, I invite you to reflect on the Kingdom.

What is the Kingdom?  What do we mean by that?

We’ll have some Bible-study materials available from Scott Hahn, 

which will fill in a lot of interesting background from the Scriptures.

But let’s start with words you and I pray daily, 

“thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

First, notice those words from the Lord’s Prayer:

We pray that when Jesus reigns, earth and heaven will be united, 

and God’s ways will rule earth the same way God rules heaven.

That’s not true now.

Also, did you notice in the opening prayer, 

it referred to “restor(ing) all things, 

and freeing “the whole creation…from slavery”?

In a few minutes, when I am at the altar, 

you’ll hear reference to “a kingdom of truth and life…

a kingdom of holiness and grace…justice, love and peace.”

These are some glimpses of what the Kingdom is about.

Let’s focus in on the Gospel, because it shows, if you will,

the two Kingdoms face-to-face: the Kingdom of this world, 

and the Kingdom of God.

It’s a shame this Gospel reading stops where it does.

After Jesus said, “I came to bear witness to the truth,”

what did Pilate say back, remember? “What is truth?”

If that isn’t the perfect statement of this world’s values!

It’s a shame to say it, but just because CNN, NBC, and even Fox, 

all call themselves “News,” 

that is no guarantee that what they disseminate 

has any close connection to the truth!

It’s not just the media! There are a lot of us who are oh-so-ready 

to believe and spread dirt when it confirms our biases. 

What do we say? “Oh, I just knew it!”

In a kingdom of truth, justice and love, 

we are SLOW to believe the worst. 

And even slower to repeat it, and never revel in it.

Keep looking at this confrontation between Pilate and Jesus.

Pilate has thousands of soldiers at his command.

He can – and will – have Jesus beaten and killed.

And he’s just one part of a vast machine of cruelty.

That’s worldly power. That’s the Kingdom of Man.

And yet Pilate hesitates. 

He is standing before a reality he cannot comprehend.

Why doesn’t this “king” defend himself? 

How could he possibly defeat almighty Rome?

And how can this Jesus be so calm, while I am quaking?

Did Pilate realize that all the things 

he counted as “strength” were utterly powerless?

Jesus is unshaken because he knows Pilate’s moment will be brief.

The same with Rome and every other human ambition.

His strategy is not to break backs but to change hearts.

His army is the martyrs. His most powerful weapon is forgiveness!

Jesus was barely comprehensible to Pilate, 

but that should not surprise us. 

When you look out through worldly eyes, 

God’s ways are, indeed, going to look very strange.

So, this week’s lesson of the Kingdom 

is that to enter it means conversion. 

Meaning, you see differently. 

And you end up at sharp angles to worldly values.

I am not talking about a slight course correction.

A lot of folks think to be a Christian just means 

adding a little prayer and religious talk, 

a baptism here, a first communion and confirmation there, 

and putting in some hours at Mass through the year

if it doesn’t conflict with something that is actually important!

Doing just enough to keep your spouse happy and look respectable.

Boy, are they wrong! They could never stand before Pilate!

And I don’t even mean the Pilate in the Gospel.

How about the Pilate at work who says, “so, you’re a Catholic, huh?”

Or at school who mocks the Rosary to see if anyone says anything.

The Kingdom of Pilate is respectable. It’s how the world works.

Or you can have that so-called king who is abandoned, 

who the crowd is laughing at, 

who looks like a freak compared to Pilate!