A homily for the Feast of Christ the King (B), November... Fr. Joseph T. Nolan

A homily for the Feast of Christ the King (B), November 25, 2012
Fr. Joseph T. Nolan
On the feast of Christ the King it is good to explore what Jesus meant by his favorite
metaphor, one that he used more often than any other phrase. What is it? The Kingdom of
God. It is familiar to us from the Lord’s Prayer, but what is it? Not just heaven, but
something like heaven on earth. It is not a political system but rather, a state of mind, or
an open attitude to the gospel, the grace of God, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
For what end? To help make real, each day, by one’s attitude or action, one deed after
another, the virtues of justice, peace, and love in human life. That sounds a little like the
famous directive for living one’s life that comes from a prophet Hosea, “What is it that is
required of you? To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before your God.” You may
choose any directive, any word from God, or sacrament like communion, that helps to
bring about the presence of God in ourselves, and through us, in the world. It is a way of
changing the world, making it possible for all of us to live as a family. The human family
– indeed, as the children of God.
Others might claim that it is the Beatitudes, or the entire Sermon on the Mount which
give us the laws or charter of the kingdom. Matthew assembles all that in chapters five,
six, and seven of his gospel; it is his great summary of Jesus’ teaching. Perhaps you recall
that it is a lofty and difficult program. Or some would say, “challenging.” I once
protested to my greatest professor that it was unreal to talk about loving your enemy,
walking a second mile, and all that. He replied, “It’s very practical. The only way you
really overcome your enemy is to make him your friend.”
That works out in history (sometimes). Look at Germany today, whom we helped to
rehabilitate after a terrible war. Or the situation between Israel and the Palestinians.
When they had an extended war with Egypt, the prime minister of Israel, Golda Meir, and
the president of Egypt at that time, Anwar Sadat, appeared to be sworn enemies. Finally
they decided to meet, and Sadat flew to Jerusalem; the Israeli military band was
astonished when told to learn the Egyptian national anthem to play upon his arrival! (It is
the proper ritual for a visiting head of state.) So they meet, these two who had been
hurling insults at each other, and they talk about a future for their grandchildren. They
exchange gifts. They begin a tenuous friendship between the two nations. It has held ever
Justice, peace, and love. They are big objectives, so start small. One acts justly as an
employer by giving a just or living wage. If you are an employee, work with integrity,
doing good work for something that helps others. If you are a student, really pursue your
goal, which is to learn in depth how to read, write, and think. We act justly if we pay bills
on time when possible. We think justly if we understand and advance the role of women,
so long subordinated, to take part in economic and political life. And, yes, in the
governance and ministry of the church.
In justice to the Creator, we should make the best use of time. It is a gift we receive every
day, and we waste a lot of it, especially since the social network makes it so easy.
Another great challenge is that, in justice to our children, we should try to save the world
for them. No one really disagrees now that the atmosphere is threatened, or that an all-out
war with nuclear weapons would destroy the earth. Peacemaking has never been more
There is peacemaking on a small scale, as small as a human relationship (and life is full
of them). It means we try to avoid quarrels, or at least get over them. Reconciliation is a
beautiful thing. As for love, that third characteristic of the kingdom, the best description
for “how to go about it” is to marry and have children. Sacrificial love – agapé, like
Jesus’ own – runs all through family life. I know this role is not for all. Here I am. (But
not by choice. Celibacy is just attached to the priesthood).
The other best prescription for bringing about the kingdom of God through love is to
study, absorb, and emulate the life of Jesus. His love was shown in service to the weak,
the needy, and to the people we call sinners. Us. We say that the whole program – how to
go about it – is outlined by the Sermon on the Mount. If that is too much, then at least
reflect on the Great Commandment. It is surprising that so many of Jesus’ followers don’t
know it. Read the version in Luke’s gospel; better still, memorize it and the parable
which follows: the Good Samaritan. How do I become a good neighbor, a compassionate
If we are devout enough to reflect each night on the day just passed, or at least make this
reflection at least while on a retreat, a good question is: what have I done with this day, or
so far with my life, to bring about the presence of God in my life. And through me, to the
world? Yes, to make it more and more a place where justice, peace, and love prevail. This
is a great way to honor Christ the King.