|Date:||November 24-25, 2012 Feast of Christ the King - Cycle B|
As most of you know, the Cardinal announced the acceptance of the pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Boston this past week. Called Disciples in Mission, it focuses very clearly on the New Evangelization, making the Gospel alive to those who have heard it before. Of course we were not the only ones who heard this news. Reports are that Satan is very concerned with this new evangelization stuff and called in his satanic council to come up with a plan to defeat it. As he went around the room, asking for suggestions, one of his advisors suggested, "Let's come up with a program that says that there is no such thing as Satan or evil. If the Catholics in Boston can be convinced there is no evil, they will not have any incentive to seek out Christ." Satan waved his hand dismissively, "There is something built into every human that tells them there is evil. Most people have encountered it personally so it is impossible to convince them it doesn't exist." Another piped up, "Well then let's convince them there is no such thing as God or Christ who loves them so much he died for them. That way they won't think there is any way to get rid of the evil they see in themselves and around them." Satan shook his head and sighed, "Even though we have used that tactic to some success with the young, even the most committed atheist experiences love and beautiful sunsets, and the amazing complexity of nature so that they know there is something or someone Good behind all of that." Finally one of the younger devils chimed in, "I know. Let them know that there is evil; and don't try to convince them there is no God. Just convince them that there is nothing they can do personally. Tell them that they should put their trust in governments or businesses or other human activities. Get them so focused on following rules and investing in human institutions that they never even look for the person of Jesus. Without encountering Jesus' love they will get more and more frustrated until they just give up and wait for someone else to fix things." Satan brightened up immediately and said, "Yes that will work. Go out now, all of you, and get that message out to them."
While the story is fanciful, the strategy is anything but. It is an old, and quite effective strategy. We hear it played out in that exchange between Pilate and Jesus in the Gospel reading. The people of Israel had pretty much given up on the personal encounter with God that formed them as a people, and promised them salvation. God invited them into a relationship so personal and so intimate that the most often used symbol of that relationship was that of marriage. By the time of Jesus all they focused on was a political or military Savior. If only God would send his chosen one to defeat the Romans, all would be good. And of course, that is exactly the way the Romans, in the person of Pilate, thought as well. Military might was the answer and so Pilate is on the lookout for anyone who could stir up the Jews to attack. Both the Jews and Pilate can only think of a king in those terms. When Pilate asks Jesus if he is the King of the Jews, he is asking him if he is that military or political leader who will try to throw the Romans out by force. Jesus' response is that his kingdom is not of this world. Satan's misinformation campaign will try to get us to understand that to mean that there is nothing we can do here and now. Jesus' is king of heaven not earth, not our world and time. But in the context of John's Gospel, 'the world' means the world built on lies and half truths; Jesus came to reveal a kingdom built on truth and beauty, built on love. As we pray in our Creed week in and week out, echoing the passage from the Book of Daniel, that kingdom will have no end. But as the reading from Revelation reminds us, Christ is not just the king who is to come but he is the king who was, and who is. His kingdom is now, as well as forever. I am sure that we all believe what we pray in the Creed but what does that really mean for us?
What are we doing here at Mass, week after week? What are we doing celebrating these Baptisms? Is it just another event in our human lives, like losing our first tooth or graduating from high school or getting our first job? No, in baptism we were given the mission not of doing something but of becoming the Body of Christ the King here and now, becoming the incarnation of God's love here in Stow in November 2012. Just as Jesus came into the world, not to conquer it with power and oppression, but to transform it by truth and love, so we are sent from baptism, through Eucharist and Confirmation, through marriage, through Holy Orders, to transform the world by truth and love. Just as the Roman emperor sent his representatives, like Pilate, to all the ends of the Roman empire to strengthen it and extend it, we Catholics are sent into our world to strengthen the kingdom of our king: Christ by love and by truth. The next line after the passage we heard, when Jesus says that everyone who belongs to the truth listens to Jesus, Pilate asks, "What is the truth?". That's the question that Satan does not want us to ask. What is the truth about why our world is the way it is? Why there are people starving, even right here in the richest country in the world? Why are people being killed in wars, and countless other acts of violence? Why are there so many children growing up in broken homes? What is it that really brings us peace and fulfilment? Satan doesn't want us to start asking those questions because the truth is plain to see in how we live. It is not revealed by what we say we believe. It is plainly revealed in how we live. These babies being baptized this weekend will learn about God's love from how their parents live their faith. People who live with us will encounter Christ only if we live as the Body of Christ. The two priests we remember this weekend, Fr. Butler and Fr. Doucet are great examples of how one's living reveal God and draws people to God. Both men revealed how Christ came to serve by serving his people as priests, and for us especially, as pastor. Fr. Butler revealed Christ's care for the poor and the marginalized in his work for justice and care for those who are marginalized. Fr. Doucet revealed that care in his commitment to serving those first responders who put their lives on the line to protect us as fire fighters. But most profoundly both Fr. Butler and Fr. Doucet revealed the love and care of Christ in how they suffered. Both men endured illness that caused great pain physically and emotionally but I know that any who visited Fr. Butler or Fr. Doucet in their last months clearly understood that we were the ones being ministered to.
If we are to truly claim Christ as our king, we must live the truth that we are the Body of this King. We are missioned as priest, prophet and king, individually but more importantly as a community. This parish community must be the physical presence of Christ so that anyone who wants to encounter Christ can do so in our midst. We have seen how that works over the past year in clebration and in mourning. We will be challenged in the coming years no less. Christ's kingdom is not of the world built on lies and power over and oppression. But it is in this world, here and now, but the only way anyone can see it is if we enflesh it.