Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Nov. 24, 2019
2 Samuel 5:1-3
The Gospel of Luke 23:35-43
Deacon Mike D’Addabbo
St. Louis Catholic Church
Today is the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King of the Universe. We all know people who claim to be a king, or who are considered kings by others. Right here in Memphis we have Elvis who is considered to be the king of rock and roll. Every August people from around the world come here to observe the anniversary of his death during the ‘death week’ memorial tributes. The U.S. Postal service even issued a commemorative stamp to memorialize his birthday. It was quickly subscribed to by his fans. We hear about other ‘kings’ in this world- Jerry ‘the king’ Lawler or the innumerable kings in the world of the WWF or RAW. Do we really think any of these men are kings? No. Of course not.
This week I read something that defined the attributes of an earthly king. In general they have power, influence, authority and leadership. The power, authority and influence can all come from a common denominator- money, societal or political status. Leadership comes in two forms- the authoritarian kind that says “I am the boss so just do what I say and when I say. We all know that kind of boss. They might be smart but they are not a true leader. A true leader earns the respect of his employees by the way they lead- the style of their leadership. They know respect is earned not demanded. That is the servant leader. He, or she, is true to their words through their actions. They will not ask you to do something they would not do. They are open minded and will listen to others views and, even if the decision is contrary to your opinion, they know you will do as instructed because your views have been considered. You were able to share your thoughts without criticism or recrimination. The servant leader is the kind of boss we would all like to be, or have.
Today’s celebration is for Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, NOT just the planet earth where we currently reside. How do we know that? Well, because we have faith in the word of God and we learned from reading the first sentence in the first book in the bible “…when God created the heavens and the earth…” There was nothing until God created it. Humans cannot invent something from nothing. Think about that for a second. (pause). We CAN, and we Do, invent things but not out of nothing. Only God can do that. We have to work with something to make something. God created earth, and everything on it necessary for us to live from nothing. That is the real king, the only king, of the universe. He is the guy we need to follow.
Jesus Christ IS the king of the Universe because He is God. He is also a true servant leader. What could be more serving than to sacrifice your own life for your subjects? Jesus was born to share in our humanity so that WE could share in His divinity. The priest, or deacon, prays those words at every Mass when mixing the water with the wine before the consecration. Jesus’ torture and death on the cross was to save all souls- not just ours- allowing us to join with Him in eternal, life. Jesus told the disciples “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of ALL nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you to the end of the age.” That shows us His kingdom, promise and love are universal and infinite.
Jesus is the definition of king we heard. He challenges our way of thinking of a king’s power, influence, authority and leadership. He wants us to think of Him as a king with endless love and humility. Jesus does not consider Himself a king of one, but the King of all, nations, the King of the Universe, in all its many separate parts. He is not our King because we fear of Him. He is our king because we love and have faith in Him, what He has done, and will do, for us. He made the ultimate sacrifice to save us. He promises to never leave us, or those after us, until the end of the world. All He asks in return is that we follow His commandments, to love him and one another.
Jesus uses todays’ readings to show the almighty mercy of our God and King. First we heard about David the King of all the Jews. He was anointed three times- the first signifying the proper respect due to his kinship with the tribe of Judah; the second is due to his leadership and success as the commander of the military, and the third and last, but not least, the anointing instructed by God for his role in protecting and leading the Israelites. David agrees to all this. In doing so he makes a covenant with them before God. He agrees to be the King and promises to rule justly. The Israelites promise him loyalty. His kingship is a covenant he makes with God. That gives it a religious meaning and blessing.
St. Paul’s letter refers to the Father, Our Father. St. Paul tell us of all the things God is, created or did first. He tells the Corinthians that Jesus is the image of the invisible God who is the firstborn of all creation. St. Paul praises the wonderful things the Father has done, beginning with the creation of heaven and earth, to the visible signs we can see, to the invisible graces that we cannot see. All from a God that we cannot see but have faith in. Jesus uses His kingship to benefit His people.
In today’s Gospel Jesus is crucified on the cross. Previously, Pilate had asked Jesus “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied “You say so.” He is nailed to the cross under an inscription that reads ‘The King of the Jews.’ Pontius Pilate had instructed that inscription to be put on the cross and he refused the Jews request to change it. He said “I have written what is written.” Did Pilate believe Jesus was the spiritual, not earthly, king of the Jews by writing, and reconfirming, the inscription on the cross? After granting the Jewish people permission to execute Jesus, Pilate washed his hands. It was a symbolic gesture saying “this is your decision. I have nothing to do with it”. He was telling the Jewish people that Jesus’ blood would not be on his hands. He was wrong about that because he chose not to deny their request.
He had the power to do that.
There were also two other men crucified that day. One has no faith and taunts Jesus just as the devil did to Jesus in the desert. That criminal sarcastically says “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” In other words, prove it to me. The other criminal chides the first. He says that the two of them are guilty and deserve their punishment. He says that Jesus is not guilty or deserving of His fate. That criminal demonstrates his faith by pleading “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” That criminal shows his faith by pleading for God’s mercy. He receives it. This is another example of how a loving King honors His people. Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, desires all nations to be His people. Will we follow His commandments, and teachings, to be those people?
Now today is also the last Sunday in this liturgical year. Next Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, begins a new church year. Tradition on New Year’s Eve (consider that to be today) is to make resolutions to improve our lives and those of our loved ones. Now, because you are here, I know I am preaching to the choir (not literally) on the next topics, but please help get this message on resolutions out.
I have some ideas. Resolve to make your best efforts to get yourselves, and your children, weekly to Sunday Mass wherever you are. We have the “last chance Mass” here on Sundays at 6PM for anyone who is out of town during our regular Mass times. Or, I am sure, there is a Catholic church celebrating Mass wherever you might be. I have been to Sunday Mass in many foreign languages and countries. I understand that everyone has a busy schedule but Christ, the King of the universe, died for us so that we could join Him in eternal life. All He asks is for our love, and an hour a week, in return. Our children grow up beginning with their welcome into the Church, and the washing away of original sin, in the Sacrament of Baptism.
At Baptism, the celebrant begins to the parents and Godparents by saying “You have asked…accepting the responsibility of training…practice of the faith…to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us…” He concludes with ‘Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?” This promise is not an option. It is a covenant directly with God. They all say yes that they accept and clearly understand. Their intentions are good but sometimes they slip. Hopefully, not often because this is just the beginning of their child’s sacramental journey so it is important to know our obligations.
Next we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation where the Priest absolves us of all sins. After that the next sacrament we receive is Holy Communion. We partake completely in the celebration of the Mass and Eucharist when we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. No other faith believes in the real presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion. Many think Communion is symbolic. Catholics do not.
We have heard about the recent Pew Research Study reporting that only three out of every ten Catholics believe that the transubstantiated ‘bread and wine’ are the real presence of the body and blood of Christ. Well if that is true then I could almost (almost) understand not fulfilling our Sunday Mass obligation. But that is not true. When we partake of the bread and wine, transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we are experiencing the same communion that the disciples did at the Last Supper with Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe who we celebrate today. It is the source and summit of our faith. It is why we are Catholic.
As in all things the devil is in the details and, particularly in this research, the devil is very much present. There is a saying that lawyers should never ask a question they do not already know the answer to. Surveys are the same. Questions are narrowly designed to elicit a desired response. That may not have been the intent of the Pew research but it was the result. The research produced headlines that only 30 pct. of Catholics believe in the Church teaching on Holy Communion. It was all in the manner the question was phrased. The Pew survey asked if Catholics believe the bread and wine ‘actually become’ the body and blood. If you change the words to “really becomes’ or “really present in” than the number of Catholics who believe in Holy Communion as the real presence of Christ’s body and blood doubles the poll results. I briefly summarized the article written by the Jesuits. It illustrates why the Pew results seem to show Catholics and Catholicism in a disturbing, disappointing light. If the question had been phrased more in line with Catholic teaching it would have produced a very different survey result.
This leads to another suggested New Year’s resolution. Please go home and read the Catechism sec. 1374 in the chapter devoted solely to the Sacrament of Holy Communion. In fact I would suggest reading the whole chapter on Holy Communion to fully grasp the Church teaching on the Eucharist so the next Pew survey will not so negative.
Lastly, I want to tell you why I bring this up. It is not to be critical of anyone. It is because of your children. A few weeks ago I was having lunch with the school children here and moving around to various tables. In the course of conversations some of the children were telling me how special they felt because they had received the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Others told me they were looking forward to being a special part of the Mass when they will be able to receive the Eucharist. But some of those same children said they are not at Mass regularly because of sports or “being on vacation” etc. I am a parent and grandparent. I am thankful my kids never wanted to be on a competitive sports team. When my family went on vacation we found a place to go to Mass. Parents- your children learn their faith first, and foremost, from you. We promised God at their Baptism to raise, and teach our children, and Godchildren, our Catholic faith. We have to show them we want to be a part of, and believe in the Mass and Eucharist as much as they do.
These comments came from your children. It is my obligation to pass them on to you. This is not a criticism. I am not without sin and so cannot, and would not, throw the first stone. My simple plea, to all of you present, is for the spiritual future of your children, for our universal Catholic church and whichever local Catholic parish is your home.
In summation I suggest just three New Year’s resolutions:
1/ attend Sunday Mass weekly. As a family whenever possible,
2/ Read Catechism sec. 1374. And then maybe some more of it
3/ Show your children your faith through your example. You asked for your children to Baptized in order to lead them into full participation in the Catholic faith. That participation includes fulfilling our weekly Sunday Mass obligation. Our children learn from us and need to see that Mass is important to us.
Thank you for listening. I apologize that I spoke so long. I felt you needed to know, and I have an obligation to tell you, what some of the school children told me. Our obligation is to get each other into heaven.
Today, on the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, thank Him for saving us. May our Almighty God help, and bless you, in forming your children.