The value of looking at the ‘big picture’ from time to time is to gain a truer perspective on what our lives are about and what our world needs. The UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow provided a wake-up call to our world to take seriously our future and work together as we grapple with the reality of climate change. Personal views and political attitudes vary but we have been challenged to face crucial issues and respond constructively.
Likewise in the Church, the First Assembly of the Plenary Council in Australia surfaced core issues about our structures, beliefs and treatment of others in the Church. More recently, Pope Francis, in calling together the Synod in Rome in 2023, is focusing on the ‘broad view’ and inviting us to ‘journey together’ in the spirit of Vatican II so that we may become a more authentic Church characterised by communion, participation and mission.
Today’s Feast of Christ the King invites us to look at the ‘big picture’. Titles can separate and the title of ‘king’ can touch our prejudices about authority and power, especially for those who are not keen on monarchies. Pope Pius XI proclaimed this feast in 1925 - The Peace of Christ in the Reign of Christ - in an era of totalitarian regimes, civil wars and bloodshed, in the hope that our world might find another way to freedom and peace.
Our celebration is not so much about a title as an attitude of heart. Kingdom images in the Scriptures are about inclusiveness and hospitality to the outcasts of society. In fact, Jesus as king was a big disappointment to the people of his time when he failed to free them from the occupying forces and ended up on a cross. The glory of Christ the King is that he is a wounded and resurrected God who reveals the human heart of our loving and reconciling God.
We still struggle with the social sins described by Mahatma Gandhi as - politics without principle; wealth without work; commerce without morality; pleasure without conscience; education without character; science without humanity; and worship without sacrifice. In the shadow of that list is the social sin of sexual abuse – an evil difficult to describe.
In the midst of the pain of victims and the wider Church, we can take some heart and make an act of faith in the Kingdom of God which is ‘in our midst’! Thankfully, God’s kingdom is different, described in today’s preface as a kingdom of ‘truth and life’, of ‘holiness and grace’, of ‘justice, love and peace’ – realities that both energise us and frighten us, especially when we fail badly. Sadly, many see these realties as having been compromised at this time.
Jesus’ love and generosity go beyond what we could ever ask for, and the light of divine love penetrates the pain, the darkness, and the squalor. The Reign of God is that of the ‘prodigal god’, the God so generous as to be almost wasteful in his love and generosity. Our call is not to ‘build’ the Kingdom but to ‘help bring forth the fruits’ of the Kingdom. We can and we do!
Human living is grounded in the practical demands of community and family life and daily work – committed to Kingdom values – spending a bit of extra time with those who need us, picking up the phone when we aren’t in the mood, looking for the positives when it would be easier to complain, listening to those who feel let down by the Church.
You and I are writing a Gospel - a chapter each day - by our words, our actions and our lives. This is why we do not carry the Book of the Gospels out in procession at the end of Mass because the Gospel is now in you and me - we carry the Gospel forth – we are commissioned:
‘Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life!’ Fr Dave