Introduction: Today we have come together to declare Christ’s lordship in our lives and in our world – to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the “King of kings and Lord of lords.” The feast that was promulgated by Pope Pius XI in 1925. On this day, we pray for the conversion of all to Christ, and for all governments to recognize Him as King and conform their laws to His teachings.
Homily: From the beginning of the church’s year, we have been hearing about the king who was coming, the anointed one of God who would save his people. Astrologers from the east came inquiring of Herod, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?”
When called as a disciple, Nathanael answered, almost prophetically, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel.” At one point in Jesus’ ministry, the people responded so enthusiastically that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king. When Jesus rides into Jerusalem, he purposefully fulfils the prophecy of Zechariah: “Lo, your king comes to you, humble and riding upon a donkey,” and the people greet him with the shout: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” Kingship is the centre around which the charges against Jesus are brought to Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asks. Hours later, Pilate gives his own sarcastic affirmation in the legally required statement of charges placed on the cross: “This is the King of the Jews.” The ridicule of the bystanders and the hope of the penitent thief are bound up in this same kingship in today’s gospel lesson. “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” the soldiers taunted. The crowd loved it! The penitent thief cries out: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingly power.”
Illustration 1: On the 23rd of Nov, 1927, when the Catholic Church was persecuted, Blessed Miguel Pro of Mexico, a priest of the Society of Jesus, died as a martyr. When he was being executed by a firing squad of federal soldiers, Fr. Pro spread out his arms in the form of a cross and cried out, “Long live Christ the King!”
Illustration 2: Napoleon, in his lonely exile on St. Helena, had much time for thought and reflection. Napoleon said, “Alexander founded an empire. It was destroyed. Julius Caesar founded the mighty Roman empire, that also came to an end. I have also created an empire, that also will come to an end. But Jesus Christ has founded a kingdom, which will never end.” Because we built out empires by force, but He upon love and to this very day million would die for him.
Illustration 3: Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was arrested and brought before the Roman authorities. He was told if he cursed Christ, he would be released. He replied, “Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king Jesus Christ who saved me?” The Roman officer replied, “Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt.” But Polycarp said, “You threaten a fire that burns for an hour, and after a while is quenched; for you are ignorant of the judgment to come and of everlasting punishment reserved for the ungodly. Do what you wish.”
Illustration 4: As the body of Abraham Lincoln’s body lay in state for a few hours in Cleveland, Ohio for mourners to pay their tribute, a black woman in the long queue lifted up her little son and said in a hushed voice: “Honey, take a long, long look. He died for us, to give us freedom from slavery.”
Illustration 5: St Thomas More is the patron saint of politicians. He was a brilliant lawyer and diplomat in 16th century England. His patriotism and loyalty to the throne attracted the attention of King Henry VIII who made him Lord Chancellor of England. What Henry VIII did not know was that Thomas More’s first loyalty was to Christ, the King of kings. When Henry VIII, decided to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon, marry Anne Boleyn, and make himself head of the Church of England, More thought this was not right. Rather than approve what he believed to be against the divine will, he resigned from his prestigious and wealthy position as Lord Chancellor and lived a life of poverty. Since he would not give his support to the king, More was arrested, convicted of treason, imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1534 and beheaded in July of the following year. On his way to public execution, More encouraged the people to remain steadfast in the faith. His last recorded words were: “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” For More, it was not simply enough to confess Christ privately in the safety of one’s heart and home; one must also confess him in one’s business and professional life as well as in the laws and policies that govern society.
Illustration 6: Once upon a time there was a prince who lived a very sheltered life. No sorrow ever touched him. When he died the people erected a lovely statue of him in the main square of the capital city. The statue was gilded all over with leaves of pure gold. It had two sapphires for eyes, and a large red ruby on the handle of the sword. Everyone who saw the statue could not fail but to admire it, and of course it was the pride and joy of the towns people. The prince had such a happy look on his young face that they called him “The Happy Prince.”
Now a little swallow from Northern Europe got left behind when, at the end of summer, the main flock went south to warmer lands. But then, sensing the coming of winter, he too headed south. One evening having flown all day long, he came to rest at the base of the statue of the Happy Prince. The night was cold but dry. As he was drifting off to sleep he was surprised when a few drops fell on him. He looked up and saw to his surprise that the Happy Prince was weeping.“Why are you weeping”? asked the little swallow.
“When I was alive I saw no suffering or misery. It was all hidden from me,” said the Prince. “But from my perch up here I see that there is a lot of unhappiness in the world. I’d like to help but I can’t do anything as my feet are fastened here. I need a messenger. Would you be my messenger? “But I have to go to Egypt.” “Please stay this night with me.” “Very well, then . What can I do for you?”
“In a room there is a mother tending a sick child. She has no money with which to pay the doctor. Take the ruby from my sword and give it to her.”
The swallow removed the ruby with his beak and bore it away to the woman and she rejoiced. The doctor came and her child recovered. And the swallow came back and slept soundly. Next day, he went down to the river to bathe and prepare for take-off again. He came back to say good-bye to the Happy Prince. But the prince asked him to take out one of the sapphires and give it to the young man who was trying to write a play but was finding it very difficult because his hands were blue with the cold. On receiving the sapphire the young writer was able to buy firewood, and succeed in finishing his work.
Next day it was the same story. The prince begged the swallow to stay another night, and reluctantly he agreed. This time he asked him to take out the other sapphire and give it to the little match-girl down in the square. The little girl had sold no matches all that day and was afraid she would be beaten when she got home. Once again the swallow did as he was asked. And a strange thing happened to him. As he was running these errands of mercy, the swallow’s own eyes were opened, and he saw how much poverty and suffering there was in the city. Then he was glad to stay with the prince and be his messenger. One by one, at the Prince’s urging, he stripped off the leaves of gold and gave them away to the poor and the needy. Finally he arrived back one evening. As usual he came to rest at the base of the statue. But by now the statue was bare, having been stripped of all its ornaments. The night was very cold. Next morning the little swallow was found dead at the base of the statue.
The happy prince had given away all his riches, but he could not have done so without the wings of his faithful messenger, the little swallow. Christ, our King, gave himself away totally while he lived on earth. Here surely was the strangest king of all. He was not out to conquer but to convert. He was not out to rule but to serve. He was not out to hoard possessions but to give them away. He devoted all his love, all his time, all his energy to seeking out the sick, the poor, the lost and the lonely. At the end he even gave his life away for those he loved, and he loved everybody.
Illustration 7: The mother of a nine-year-old boy named Mark received a phone call in the middle of the afternoon. It was the teacher from her son’s school. “Mrs. Smith, something unusual happened today in your son’s third grade class. Your son did something that surprised me so much that I thought you should know about it immediately.” That was not a particularly comforting thing to say to her.
The teacher continued, “Nothing like this has happened in all my years of teaching. This morning I was teaching a lesson on creative writing. And as I always do, I tell the story of the ant and the grasshopper: The ant works hard all summer and stores up plenty of food. But the grasshopper plays all summer and does no work.”
“Then winter comes. The grasshopper begins to starve because he has no food. So he begs, Please Mr. Ant, you have so much food. Please let me eat, too.” Then I say, “Boys and girls, your job is to write the end of the story.”
Your son, Mark, raised his hand: ‘Teacher, may I draw a picture?’
“Well, yes, Mark, if you like, you may draw a picture. But first you must write the ending to the story.”
“As in all the years past, most of the students said the ant shared his food through the winter, and both the ant and the grasshopper lived. A few children wrote, ‘No, Mr. Grasshopper. You should have worked in the summer. Now, I have just enough food for myself.’ So the ant lived and the grasshopper died.”
“But your son ended the story in a way different from any other child, ever. He wrote, “So the ant gave all of his food to the grasshopper; and the grasshopper lived through the winter. But the ant died.”
And the picture? At the bottom of the page, Mark had drawn a beautiful Cross with an explanation, “He died on the cross, so that we might have life.”
Conclusion: We firmly believe that Christ, our risen King and Saviour, lives on in the Church. While he was here on earth, he gave his life for us, so much did he loves us. He is still as generous as ever. From his lofty perch at the Father’s right hand, he survey’s the plight of all the Father’s children, all those who are now his brothers and sisters. But his feet, so to speak, are fastened, his hands tied, and his tongue silent. He needs messengers. He needs us. He has no hands but ours, no feet but ours, no tongue but ours. And it is his riches, not our own, that we are called to dispense – his love, his forgiveness, his mercy and his Good News.