Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Christ the King)
Readings: Daniel 7:13-14; Apocalypse 1:5-8; John 18:33-37
21 November 2021
All who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.
Dear young friends,
Sometimes, a small act of courage can make a big difference and can even change the course of history. This was true in the case of a woman I deeply admire. No, she is not a celebrity and her name is not Taylor Swift or Britney Spears. Her name is Rosa Parks, a black American woman living in the time of racial segregation. In 1955, on a bus ride home, Rosa was asked to give up her seat to a white passenger. Rosa was tired after a long working day. But she was even more tired of giving in to injustice. She refused to go to the back of the bus where coloured passengers were supposed to be. Though arrested on charges of civil disobedience, Rosa later became an international icon of resistance against social injustice. The world is a better place because of her moral courage.
Life presents us with all sorts of situations where we have to act accordingly. Rosa Parks acted bravely in the face of systemic injustice. But as disciples of Jesus, we are called to witness to the values of the Gospel and bring forth the presence of God’s Kingdom.
Today, we mark the completion of our liturgical year with the feast of Christ the King. It points to the direction of salvation history, that is to say, the fulfilment of God’s plan. We are inspired by the kingdom vision of Jesus and strengthened by the hope that it will be realised despite all things to the contrary.
The Word of God calls us to embody the value system that is rooted in the life and ministry of Jesus, one that is radically at odds with our survival instincts and the success-driven, winner-take-all culture. It situates our Christian calling in the context of service, empathy and relationship building as opposed to the worldly notion of prestige, power and glory.
In the first reading, we hear a message of hope concerning the arrival of the messianic era. In the midst of despair that was the result of the Roman occupation, Daniel envisions a new future for his people. He dreams of the day when all peoples, nations and languages led by “the one like a son of man” come together to worship the one true God. It is an extraordinary inclusiveness given Israel’s belief in its own special status. It is also a rejection of violence, dominance and power in favour of universal love and brotherhood.
Daniel challenges true believers not to give in to the despair that arises from the supposed impossibility of change. We may feel numbed and overwhelmed by the seemingly unchangeable status quo. But the prophet shows us that it is possible to act in such a way that moves the world in the direction of God’s kingdom.
Following the Book of Daniel, the Gospel story today presents a stark contrast between the imperial model represented by Pilate and the kingdom vision of Jesus. It was a dramatic scene. Pilate mounted on his throne was totally in control and the epitome of worldly power. Jesus on the other hand was totally powerless and vulnerable. The contrast of power and vulnerability, prestige and wretchedness, fame and ignominy, success and failure could not be more striking.
Yet there was something beyond the naked eye for those who discern the truth. Just as at the scene of the crucifixion where the dying Jesus assured the repentant thief of God’s eventual triumph, here the kingdom vision also shines through the darkness of hate, mob justice and hysteria. Here it is Jesus who judges and rejects Pilate’s imperial ideology built on violence, dominance and exclusion. “All who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.” These words express a vision of Gospel community working towards the fulfilment of God’s plan for the world.
On this feast of Christ the King, we are emboldened by his kingdom vision. The Word of God challenges us to be people who are on the side of truth, justice, dignity starting from the marginalised and the forgotten.
At a time when the global structures are faltering, the world needs more than ever the witness of a Christian community united in its effort to honour the dignity and worth of every human person, to serve the common good and live as one with God’s creation. The King to whom we show loyalty is one who makes us profoundly uncomfortable. With him, there is no path to glory that sidesteps humility, surrender, and sacrificial love; no permission to secure my prosperity at the expense of another’s suffering and no excuse for not telling truth to power.
During these challenging times, let us embody the inclusive kingdom vision of Jesus –one that is rooted in justice, compassion, solidarity and service. Only by living that vision fully as the Body of Christ, can we become a lighthouse for the world. Let us renew our commitment to bring the kingdom vision to birth in our parish community and beyond, confident of its fulfilment in the fullness of time.