My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving this past Thursday — Thanksgiving day — and that you are still having a nice Thanksgiving weekend with your family and friends.
So today, as we come for our Sunday celebration, we come to the end of the liturgical year. A week from today we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent — that’s the beginning of the preparation for Christmas.
And today we celebrate the beautiful Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
Today we are also joining Catholics throughout the United States in a special Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians, that’s a special prayer that was called by the Bishops of the United States for this Sunday.
As Pope Francis has said, “We are living in a time of martyrs.” He says — Pope Francis says — that there are martyrs in the world today and more Christians suffering for their faith, than at any other time in history.
And we even had that horrible — I suppose terrorist attack — on the Muslims in Egypt just a few days ago.
So let us pray for all those who face violence and oppression because of their faith. Especially let us pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria and the Middle East.
We always have to think that our faith should take us to action. So we especially need to call on our government leaders to do more to end the violence against believers — everyone: our Ecumenical and interfaith brothers and sisters. Then we can really defend religious freedom around the world.
And especially today, on this celebration of Christ the King, we pray with absolute confidence, because we know that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the world and the Lord of human history.
We really need to grow in our faith in God’s providence. When we see that there is so much violence in our world, there are so many needs for so many people all over the world. We really need to renew our faith that God cares for us and that he is building his kingdom of love in history.
And that’s precisely one of the lessons we hear in the readings of today’s Mass.
In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel tells us the Lord is our Shepherd and that he will come among us, calling all his scattered sheep — to seek out the lost and the strayed and to gather them up.
And that’s exactly what Jesus Christ came to do.
He traded the crown of a King in heaven, for a crown of thorns on earth. Out of love for us, he came down from the heights of heaven — and united himself in solidarity with every man and every woman on earth, sharing in all the joys and sorrows of our human existence.
And Jesus calls each one of us to follow him and to live as he lived — in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially with those who are suffering and those who are in need.
This is what he is teaching us in the Gospel passage that we hear today.
Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. …
Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.
And this is — really this is — the meaning of this great solemnity of Christ the King. This is the meaning of the Gospel. This is why Jesus came to earth. This is why he died for us — that we can really try to imitate him and love our brothers and sisters.
We really need to serve God in every person. We need to find God’s image in everyone we meet. We need to see his plan of love playing out in the events of our lives.
In the second reading of today’s Mass, St. Paul tells us that Jesus “must reign” and everything must be “subjected to him.”
He is talking about our lives! He’s talking about the world in which we live.
He is telling us that we need to let Jesus be the guide for all our priorities and intentions.
Jesus Christ is not like the kings and rulers of this world. He does not rule by force or by fear.
Jesus rules by setting us free. Free from the slavery of our egos. Free from our selfishness and sin.
Jesus knows who we are. He knows each of us better than we know ourselves. He knows that we all struggle with selfishness.
And when we think about our lives, we can see that it is true. We all want to be like “little kings.” We want to be in control, in charge. We want things to go our way. We want people to do — what we want them to do. It happens in our daily lives. Sadly, it is, at least sometimes, “all about us.” Our needs. What I like. Our self interest.
It’s true for all of us — it’s true for me. It’s true for all of us. This is just our human condition.
We are always trying to make sure that we are “okay.” And that everybody is supposed to do things in the way that we want them to do it. And when that doesn’t happen, then we start having challenges in dealing with one another.
That is why we need Jesus. When we give our hearts to Jesus. When we make him King, when we try to think and act and live like Jesus — we find freedom. And peace.
It seems to me that the ones that can really teach us that this is the way we are supposed to live are the saints. We think of people like St. Mother Teresa or our newest American saint, Blessed Solanus Casey, who was a Capuchin priest that was beatified just last week in Detriot.
In every time and place, the saints show us that in our love for the poor, we find Jesus. In loving one another, we find Jesus. And the saints show us that love is the measure — love is what makes our life truly human.
It’s nothing else. Not watching a great movie, or making a lot of money. Or traveling all over the world. Or making everybody to do things as we like it.
What really makes us happy is when we love our brothers and sisters, love God, and love our brothers and sisters.
So today, as we celebrate this beautiful solemnity of Christ the King, let Jesus Christ be our King.
We need to allow him to set us free from selfishness, so that we can follow him and help him — to build his Kingdom of love. A Kingdom of holiness and peace. A Kingdom of justice, love and peace.
So let’s ask for the grace today to really make Jesus the King of our lives and let us try to serve him in every person, especially this coming week.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, of course, is the Queen of the Heaven — just as Jesus Christ is King.
So let us entrust ourselves to her intercession. May she help all of us to make this world a Kingdom of love — that God’s love may reign in every heart.
1. Readings: Ezek. 34:11-12, 15-17; Ps. 23:1-3, 5-6; 1 Cor. 15:20-26, 28; Matt. 25:31-46.