Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
I’m so glad to be able to celebrate the Feast of Christ the King with all of you today and particularly to keep the Feast with the direction, or I might say through the lens – the window – that is very much ours at this hour of the day. I hinted at that, tried to indicate that, during my remarks at the beginning of this sacred liturgy. We have a very particular way, our little congregation today, of celebrating the Feast of Christ the King. We do it by offering God praise and thanks for the great celebration eight days ago when the representative of our Holy Father declared in the name of Pope Francis that now we can venerate Father Solanus as Blessed, pray for his intercession in our churches and pay homage to his image and his relics.
So, we have this task, we have a particular work today, a particular way of celebrating the Feast by offering God thanks for Blessed Solanus and for his beatification. And so, what I would like to do – what I hope to do – in my preaching is to speak about the kingship of Jesus so that, having understood that a bit better, meditated on it for a while, we can all the better do our job of representing the whole Archdiocese and the whole Capuchin community in offering God thanks.
Each of the sacred readings today, the Scripture texts, tells us something particular about the kingship of Jesus. First of all, that His coming as our king, according to the prophet Ezekiel, is the result of God’s promise, His prediction. The prophecy of Ezekiel that we heard was made to the people of Israel in a very dark and difficult time for them, the time of the exile, when the temple had been destroyed and the people scattered. It might have seemed that there would be no more people of Israel, that the promise to Abraham had become void.
But God sent Ezekiel to make the promise that the disorder that was so oppressive to them would be set right. And not just by anyone, but by God Himself. He would be the shepherd. He would be the king. He would come in person to make all things new and good as they ought to be. And we know that in the fullness of time, God fulfilled that promise. That’s who we are as Christians, that’s why we’re here in the church. We know that this promise was fulfilled in the flesh when God the Son became a man and Jesus Christ is that king. We call him Lord. He is the Lord of our lives, the Lord of the world.
When did that happen? When was Jesus crowned as Lord and king? Paul tells us in the reading from 1st Corinthians today: It was when Jesus rose from the dead because it was by rising from the dead that death was destroyed. Death and sin are the great roots of every disorder, every misery that we experience. Everything that makes us cry out: “God, make it better! Help us!” Jesus Christ has begun the restoration of the way God wants the world to be, by being the first one to rise from the dead and conquering death and sin. And He will come again in glory to make definitive and complete what began on Easter Sunday. Jesus Christ is king because He is risen from the dead.
In the Gospel our Lord Himself tells us what kind of kingdom this is. We live in a democratic republic; we know what that social order is like. It’s about freedom and due process. What’s the kingdom of Jesus like? He says in the Gospel it’s about sacrifice and service. And rightly so because it was by the very act of total service and total sacrifice that the Lord Jesus merited His rising from the dead. So, if you want to be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, you have to follow the example of the first citizen – our king, Jesus.
These acts of goodness that we hear about in the parable are certainly in some way like acts of philanthropy. But they’re so much more. It’s not simply about trying to make the world a little better. It’s about conquering evil and hatred and egoism. In this kingdom, service must always be sacrifice, not just giving stuff but giving ourselves because Christ has given Himself to us first. Our service is a reciprocation of an unbounded service which we can never hope to match, but which we do seek to imitate. That’s how it is in the kingdom of God. And in the kingdom of Christ, even the things we fail at can be part of His victory when we entrust those failures to him in abandonment and loving trust.
Now, all of that said, you can see, I’m sure, why it is good to give God thanks for the beatification of Father Solanus on the Feat day of Christ the King. Does he not exemplify how to be a citizen in the kingdom of God? How to follow Christ the King and how to make him ones Lord?
Father PReuss is here. He’s one of the superiors at the monastery. The Provincial is here. I’m so glad you’re here today because I’m going to say – and I hope you’re not offended – one of Father Solanus’ jobs was to firmly – and it already was firmly established – more firmly establish the kingdom of God on Mount Elliot between Vernor and Lafayette. That’s what he did. That’s our job. Maybe on Telegraph, maybe now on Pleasance Road or up on Lapeer Road or Hall Road. Whatever road. Whatever sphere is ours, whatever home, whatever schoolroom, whatever shop, whatever office, whatever plant, we need to make that part of the kingdom of God.
How do we do that? As Jesus said: By loving those who are poor and without love. Yes, sometimes it’s about food and clothing (and we need to do those things), but other times it’s about injustice. For example, it might be about racism or some other form of injustice, it might be about discouragement, hopelessness. What a terrible scourge that is in our time – people who feel themselves unloved and without hope. We are ambassadors – agents – of this kingdom and we need to plant the flag of Jesus Christ wherever we live, wherever we work, and especially in our homes. Each of our homes needs to be an outpost of the kingdom of Christ. Jesus is Lord here in my home. Jesus is Lord in our minds and in our hearts and in our actions. He is victorious over everything that seems to push us into being selfish and egotistical. We thank God for Father’s beatification because we have in our midst his memory, his clear example about how to let Jesus rule and how to let Him be the Lord.
To conclude, let me speak about the Holy Eucharist because there is no clearer, more powerful place for the Kingdom of God to come into our world than in our churches on our altars. The Holy Spirit makes present on our altars Jesus in His sacrifice, which is Jesus in His victory, Jesus in His power. So that you and I, the citizens of the kingdom of Christ, we can taste the kingdom because we eat and drink His love. And we have His strength because really it’s only Jesus himself that can love the way He commands us to love. It was Jesus who loved the poor and the distressed and the troubled in Father Solanus when they came to see him. And in that same power He will work in us when we let Him. We give God thanks for being alive and being victorious and working in us.
We have much to be thankful for. Each of us, I know, comes to the Cathedral today with our own memories, our own sense, our own feelings about what we saw eight days ago. But it wasn’t only us, was it? The whole world, in some way, has been blessed by Father Solanus’ beatification. The world’s better, the kingdom of God is stronger for Father Solanus. We give God the Father praise and thanks that He has done so much and we give God thanks ahead of time for what He will do in each of you and in me to strengthen and advance His kingdom until, as St. Paul says, Jesus comes back and God will be all in all and everything will be totally as God wishes it to be. Only joy. Only peace. Only life.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
Blessed Solanus, pray for us.