Sunday, November 21, 2010

Homily of Fr. Gary Dowsey, Feast of Christ the King

One of the distinct privileges I have working with Lighthouse Catholic Media is to visit many parishes around the Diocese of St. Petersburg and State of Florida. Today I was at Our Lady of Lourdes in Dunedin, FL. The pastor, Fr. Gary Dowsy gave a great homily, reprinted below with his permission.

Fr. Gary Dowsey at the consecration of Mass on the Feast of Christ the King
"There has been a lot of royal frenzied activity in Britain since the announcement of the engagement and forthcoming marriage of Prince William and his now fiancée Kate Middleton. You may think that the British are somewhat obsessed by all things royal and you would be somewhat right, though not as much as they were in the past. One media reporter stated that the impending royal occasion diverts attention, if only briefly, from the reality of life in the midst of recession. This comment sparked a discussion on the cost of such an event in the midst of a deep economic downturn that continues to affect us all.

The whole concept of monarchy in a country such as the United States, which swept it from its shores in order to claim independence from a foreign power, must seem very odd. It seems to conflict directly with the truth that all of us have been created equally in God’s eyes and that people should not be honored for a title they bear but for who they are. If titles are given to us they should obviously reflect who we are and not be in conflict with the way we live our lives.

There is always a danger in placing too much trust in people who bear titles of honour. Our hopes and trust can easily be dashed. Today’s first reading is about Saul’s successor, King David. He was young and handsome and daring. He captured Jerusalem as the royal city. He who once shepherded sheep now shepherded, that is, protected, the people of Israel. David was not a king with a stiff upper lip. He was wild and crazy enough to strip down to his boxers and dance before the Ark of the Covenant. The people loved him. David was a marvelous king who restored God’s people. But he had feet of clay like the rest of us. He was vain, deceitful, crooked and lustful. King David drank too much and had affairs with married women. If he lived today he would rival the antics of the British royal family (God forgive me Your Majesty the Queen for such a comment!) and, no doubt, appear on the cover of People magazine.

One thousand years later, when Jesus, the one who called himself the Good Shepherd, rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, they greeted him as royalty by waving palms and crying out hosannas and calling him the Son of David because like David, Jesus was a shepherd king until the end. But unlike David, this King was without sin and restored all of God’s people, not the few, but the many, not one nation but every nation with the gift of salvation.

This feast of Christ the King, which closes the Church’s liturgical year, was instituted only eighty five years ago by Pope Pius XI on December 11th, 1925. Pope Pius was having to deal with a global leadership problem that needed a Gospel solution. It was the time of the rise of dictators. The world had seen Lenin take over Russia and was watching Stalin soar to power. Hitler’s popularity was growing in Germany and Mussolini had already ruled Italy for three years. The sovereignty of Christ was being challenged and replaced by the rise of secularism and communism. People were being forced, coerced, and manipulated to place their trust in the sovereignty of certain individuals rather than that of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the One who is the image of the invisible God, our Savior Jesus Christ.

It is amazing how quickly we can be swayed by strong, charismatic, personalities with feet of clay and hearts of stone, in rejecting the values of the true and everlasting kingdom. How fickle we are, persuaded by the last argument rather than remaining steadfast in the truth and values of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus was very direct in his conversation with Pilate when he said that his kingdom was not of this world. It was out of this world, it turns the values of this world upside down and inside out. Jesus had no standing army but he did have followers. He wore no crown of gold, but one of thorns. He did not use his authority to take life but to give it. He did not set boundaries or entertain only the nobility; he welcomed prostitutes, tax collectors, foreigners and thieves.

He did not exploit people but spoke sympathetically of widows, prodigals, Samaritans and the poor. He did not wield the sword of punishment but extended mercy and forgiveness: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” He did not coerce; he invited, and rather than tax his subjects to pay the debts of his monarchy, he laid down his own life so that the “debt” of human sin would be forgiven. He did not come to conquer but to save. His throne is not made of gold and precious stones but wood and nails. His throne was cast from a tree and made into a cross. This is Christ, our King, to whom we give all glory, honor and praise. This truly is the image of the invisible God.

The Kingship of Christ does not remove us from reality but makes us face it head on. The throne of Jesus, the Cross, confronts us with so many of the struggles and challenges of today’s world: humility, suffering, death, injustice, torture. All that is destructive of our humanity, of our equality as sons and daughters of God, is embraced on this throne of glory and redeemed by our loving God.
What an amazing promise is given to the criminal who hangs next to Christ, a promise we would all hope to hear as we prepare to die: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” This proves that it is never too late to be rescued by God and forgiven. In taking his last breath this criminal was born into eternal life.

Fr. Gary Dowsey
As Jesus reigns from the cross he teaches us the values that matter, the values that have a lasting consequence: reconciling love, justice, forgiveness and the kingdom of heaven. As we celebrate this beautiful feast, and conclude the Church’s year, let the values of Christ’s Kingdom continue to permeate our hearts and change our lives. Only the values of Christ’s Kingdom can direct us into eternity. No earthly ruler must ever be allowed to have dominion over our hearts for this is where Christ alone must reign. To Him be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen."

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