[Homily. 22 November 2022. Lk 21-5-11. Rev 14:14-19.]
Jesus foretold the destruction of the Temple. The Temple was where the Arc of the Covenant was present. In Jewish belief, it was where God was present. The Temple, therefore, was where the Jews worshipped God with their offerings of turtle doves or of rams and bullocks, many of these offerings sacrificed in holocaust. It was where the offering of the blood of animals was to atone for sin.
But in this temple, no matter its bejeweled beauty and rituals of atonement, this sacrifice did nothing to bring the people to deeper submission to the Kingdom of God. The people continued to fail to obey God in the most basic of God’s commandments: to love God with all one’s mind and all one’s heart and all one’s soul, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Even their religious leaders, the Levite and the Pharisee, passed by the wounded man, robbed, and left to die by the wayside without stopping to bend down to care for him. The Temple and its rituals did nothing to help the people heed Jesus’ fundamental call: Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.
With the destruction of Temple Jesus also foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was supposedly the City of Peace, Salaam. That is what “Jerusalem” meant. But in Jerusalem, because of the people’s rejection of the reign of God, there was no peace between man and his God and no peace between man and his fellow men. That is why with great emotion Jesus wept for Jerusalem. He had done all he could to bring the people to the embrace of his Father. But they rejected him. As they rejected his Father.
BUT in his commitment to his Father’s redemptive will Jesus would be the new Jerusalem, the new locus of peace-making, reconciliation and lasting peace. In total obedience to the will of the Father, he would be the new Temple. He would take over and transcend the Tempe sacrifice. He would be the Priest, the Victim, the Sacrifice of true atonement and reconciliation. In his obedience unto death he would be the full manifestation of the Kingdom of God. He:
“Who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself becoming obedient on a Cross.
“Because of this God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus Christ, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:6-11).
This is what we celebrate this week: Christ the King – not a king arrayed in red velvet wearing a bejeweled crown carrying a scepter of power in one hand and an orb of divine majesty in the other. But the one crucified on the Cross hanging overpowered and derided beneath a sign, “This is the King of the Jews” (Lk 23:38).
Because of his obedience on the Cross, Jesus is the King who reconciles the world with his Father. He calls those “blessed by his Father” to “inherit the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world” (Mt. 25:24). In the last Judgment this King, still obedient to the will of his Father, works out the reconciliation of the world with the Father. The final establishment of the Father’s justice through the Last judgement, where sheep are separated from goats, is the action of Christ the King, “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:12); he admits the sheep to eternal reward as the invisible God would will; he declares that acts of charity done to or denied the least of his brothers and sisters are acts done to or denied him. In so doing the kingly dignity of the most oppressed, downtrodden and discarded of humanity is established irreversibly by the King.
The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Christ the King.
In the apocalyptic vision described in our reading from the book of revelation (Rev. 14:14-19), John sees the image of the Lamb, sacrificed for us and resurrected, atop the mount of the New Jerusalem. With him are 144,000 special followers, each with the name of the Father and the name of Jesus written on their foreheads. In the lives that each of these had led in discipleship and even in martyrdom, The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Christ the King. With this written on their foreheads, they are saved and admitted to everlasting joy.
As disciples of Christ, what is written on your foreheads? What is it that most marks your thoughts, your desires, your intentions, your decisions, you who are made in the image of God and invited to partake in his heavenly banquet forever? If it is your money, your greed, your reputation, your power, your self-preservation, your hardened hatred, you may wish to consider Jesus’ fundamental call: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk. 1:15).
Or is written on your forehead rather your love? Your care for your neighbor? Your wishing another well? Your solidarity with the least of the Lord’s sisters and brothers? Your courage in persecution and your humility prayer, “Have mercy on me, Lord, a sinner!”? To you, the Lord, Christ the King, says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven!”