[Homily. Assumption Chapel. Nov. 29, 2022.]
The last weeks of Ordinary time were about the end of time when the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, appears as Christ the King, the King of Heaven and Earth.
Having painstakingly proclaimed the Kingdom of God and called people to repentance in preparation for its coming, Jesus remained faithful to its message of the love and compassion of God despite furious opposition from the religious leaders. In his obedience to the will of his Father to tell the truth about his Kingdom and to accomplish his will, he emptied himself, suffered ignominiously at the hands of his enemies, and was lifted up on a Cross.
Therefore, the Father exalted him, raised him up from the dead now as King of Heaven and Earth who as just Judge would establish justice, both justice on earth and justice in the cosmos.
He would fulfill the longings of the people for justice. He would work out the triumph of right, of love, of compassion, of the dignity of all human beings, no matter the lack or excess of their possessions in life. He would fulfill the longings of peoples for everlasting peace through a final cosmic reconciliation of all conflicts between human beings and God, human beings and fellow human beings, human beings and nature, as long as people would have believed in him and lived according to that belief.
Separating the sheep from the goats, he would admit to everlasting fulfillment those who had been faithful to his mandate to love, who had cared for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned, the lost and the lonely. “Whatever you have done for one of these the least of my sisters and brothers that you did for me” Enter now into the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world” (Mt. 26:34), the kingdom of the Eternal King, a kingdom of perpetual life, of undying light and unending joy.
Transition to a New Liturgical Year
The end of Ordinary Time with the celebration of Christ the King ends the liturgical year. It transitions into the new liturgical year with the purple of the Advent Season. Advent is a Season of waiting, of hoping, of longing, a season of being mindful of our deepest desires and of what it is in life for which we most truly, if not desperately, wait. In this season we ask: what is it in life for which we spend our best energies, our youth, our adult years, our limited time, our life? What is it in life for which we empty ourselves in order to fulfill ourselves even if that fulfillment seems so elusive? Like all my sacrifices for my family which never seems satisfied? Or my sacrifices for the advancement of my career which too often marks time? Or my efforts for the promotion of communal cooperation towards social justice to which only few respond? To which indeed some are positively hostile preferring the pursuit of private interests to the promotion of the common weal. What is it for which I long as I become more and more sensitive to something flawed in life’s experience: I want to do good, but I disappoint. I want to help people, but only hurt them. I want to serve God, but end up serving myself. I want to make peace, but I mess up.
In this context of life’s waiting, we hear the reading for today from Isaiah.
“A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from its roots a bud shall blossom.” From the stump of Jesse was to come not only the Davidic king, but Christ the King… “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: A Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and of strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord.” He shall be moved to mission by the Spirit of God, endowed with his gifts to know and carry out his will. His mission shall now be to judge the world, to finally establish the justice of God in truth, triumphing over all previous opposition: “Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide. But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the Lord’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt around his hips” (Isaiah 11:1-5).
With all our longings at the beginning of the liturgical year, we look forward to their fulfillment at the end of the liturgical year in the celebration of Christ the King. The desires, the waiting, the yearning at the beginning of the year call forth the justice, the fulfillment, the triumph of Christ the King for all who believe in him. In between the beginning and the end of the liturgical year is the hopeful anticipation and waiting for the coming of the Emmanuel, God with us at Christmas, then God with us in his public ministry and mission as introduced by his Father in his baptism, then the commemoration of the consequent suffering and death of our Lord during Lent and the Holy Week, the triumph and exaltation of the Lord in his resurrection and ascension, and the workings of the Holy Spirit calling us to fidelity to Christ the King during Ordinary time.
Our Waiting Not in Vain
The waiting at the beginning of the Liturgical Year anticipates the fulfillment at the end of the Liturgical year where the King’s establishment of perfect justice in a New Jerusalem is beautifully depicted by our reading from Isaiah today:
“Then the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bears shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest. The lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child shall lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on my holy mountain, for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea” (Is 11:6-9).
We wait. But we do not wait in vain.
Hopefully, with the yearly celebration of the liturgical year we may be deepened in our understanding of what it is we hope for and expect in life: the fulfillment of these longings in the Kingdom of Christ the King!