Solemnity of Christ the King
Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne,
on Sunday, 25th November, 2001, at 11.00am
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. With a cross for a throne and thorns for a crown Jesus redeems us and invites us to set our feet within the kingdom of heaven, which begins from our baptism, continuing with our life of striving and merit, to the moment when we will hear his call.
So that our striving may be profitable, filled with love and hope, let us call to mind our sins, that through the grace of Christ our lives may be made new.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Quite often in the course of history the last words of famous people have been recorded. In a way they recall the way in which they faced and expressed themselves in death. When she lay dying, Queen Elizabeth I of England was said to have wished, "All of my possessions for a moment of time." Charles IX, who in 1572 had ordered the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre of the Hugenots throughout France, met death with despair, "What blood! What murders! I am lost forever. I know it." Philip III of Spain, who proved himself to be an unfit king, breathed his last wishing, "Would to God that I had never reigned. What does all my glory profit but that I have so much more torment in death." Talleyrand, the French cleric and statesman, who helped depose Napoleon, greeted death with these words, "The whole eighty-three years passed away ….. and all without other results, except fatigue of mind and body and a profound sentiment of discouragement as to the future and disgust as to the past."
In welcome contrast to these dying words, today's Gospel invites us to consider the last words of Jesus Christ. He died as he had lived. With a trust in his Father that overcame his fear he accepted death and offered the mockery, torture and abandonment for the sins of each of us. He asked that his persecutors be forgiven. With a freedom that could only be born of authentic love he willingly commended his spirit to God.
Jesus shows his kingship in service. He sought out the lost, healed the sick and lovingly tended all who were entrusted to his care. Through his death he rescued a sinful world from the darkness of sin and on the cross he showed his power by promising paradise to a repentant sinner.
If we take Christ's kingship seriously, we will work to build up his kingdom around us, establishing it even in the most unexpected places. The Feast of Christ the King is immediately followed by the Season of Advent as if to say, 'Look! His kingdom is here too, here in the stable, surrounded by shepherd boys and donkeys!'
Christ is a king born as an outcast, a refugee from his homeland, only days after his birth. His triumphal procession into Jerusalem years later was not in a royal litter but on a donkey; his crown was not given as a badge of honour but as an insult during the crucifixion. Christ turns all our ideas about political power upside down. He is King, but a King who serves-even to death, death on a cross.
A Catholic understanding of Jesus' presence is that he is present totally in the whole of the consecrated bread and wine and totally in every part thereof. We adore him as our King and Lord; we love him as our Saviour. This feast is also an opportunity to ask at the end of the Liturgical Year just what sort of year we have had. What has the Church's year meant to us? In what ways does this year's end find us different, closer to saint-hood? How has the Kingdom of Christ the King been advanced in Australia?
Have we done what he asks: fed the hungry, comforted the sick, the dying and the afflicted, visited prisoners, welcomed strangers to our shores and our doors?
Every night before sleep the Night Prayer of the Church encourages us to examine our consciences. At the end of the Church's year it is especially appropriate to do so. For as the new year begins, the readings at Mass change and we are reminded not only of Christ's coming as a baby but also of his Second Coming as our Judge. When his Kingship is complete, we will be required to give an account of ourselves. As we approach Advent it is a good idea to take stock spiritually, considering what we have done and what we have failed to do. There will be room for improvement; but, as always with God, there is still time. Jesus who has accompanied us in last tonight's Eucharistic procession wants us to walk with him through our daily life.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.