[Homily. Assumption Chapel. Monday, Nov 25, 2019. Based on Lk 21:1-4.]
Yesterday, for the Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King we were invited to contemplate the Crucified Lord as Christ, our King. The healer who had preached of the Kingdom of God now nailed to a cross is marked by the sign, “Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Lk 23:38). This is Christ the King. But this image of defeat is juxtaposed with startling images from the letter of Paul to the Colossians: “He is the image of the invisible God. For in him was created everything… For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things to him, whether those on earth or those in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross” (Col 1:15-20).
The juxtaposed images are meaningful – especially in their ironic opposition to each other. I suggest they be considered in deep silence for what they may mean for me in my life. Are they contradictory images? Or complementary? The graphic image of the wounded, bleeding, tortured, defeated, humiliated, naked God-man juxtaposed with the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). The man who “emptied himself … obedient to the point of death, even the death on the cross” (Phil 2:8) juxtaposed with him in whom “the fullness of all things was pleased to dwell” (Col: 1:19), him, through whom “all things were created…in heaven.. and on earth, both visible and invisible” (Col: 1:16); the conflict between God and humanity, the endless enmity between people and other people, the contradiction between unbelievers, false teachers of religion, hypocrites and the Kingdom of God as Jesus had proclaimed it juxtaposed with the image of Jesus through whom all things are reconciled – making peace through the blood of the cross.
It is this image of Christ the King that frames other images that we are invited to contemplate during this last week of the liturgical year: tomorrow the destruction of the temple, (Lk 26:5-11); Wednesday, the persecutions all Christians are to expect (Lk 26:12-19); Thursday, the destruction of Jerusalem (Lk 26:20-28); and Friday, the parable of the fig tree (Lk 26:29-33) urging us to be sensitive to and read the signs of the times. Things come to an end. The world ends. Time ends. Time runs out.
And at the end, Christ is King. At the beginning, Christ is King. Before the beginning, Christ is King. In telling us, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” Christ is King. In telling us, I and the Father are one, Christ is King. In telling us, “Love one another as I have loved you,” Christ is King. In separating the sheep from the goats, Christ is King. The image of Christ the King: Christ on the Cross – looking at each of us individually, saying, “You, you I set free,” “You, you I love”, embracing us with his arms nailed to the cross…, breathing life into us, as he expires, lifting us to himself, as he is uplifted and given “a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 9:9-11).
If in contemplating the crucified Lord you cannot look into his eyes, and see him looking into your own eyes, and peering into your heart, inviting you to be the you he loves, beg him, as the blind person did last week, “Lord that I may see” (Lk 18:41).
If you do see, with St. Ignatius, you may ask, “If you have done this for me, Lord, what have I done for you? What am I doing for you? What ought I do for you?”
In answering this, the Gospel of today is of tremendous importance. For many of us may answer like the rich man alluded to: “Lord, I have done so much for you! Look at all of my achievements. Look at all of my work! Look at all of my charities. Look at how many people admire me! I thank you Lord that I am not a hypocrite like the rest of these…” The Lord praises the widow in our Gospel: “Truly I tell you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood she had” (Lk 21:3-4).
It is not: I, the rich benefactor. Not I, the King. It is: Christ the King. It is to this King whose power is shown me in defeat and whose love is offered me in humility that I respond in grateful love in the poverty of the widow’s might: Take and receive, O Lord… all that is mine is yours. Give me only your love and your grace. That’s enough for me.