Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christ the King

Today is the feast of Christ the King.  Today we profess that Jesus Christ is the king of the universe.  The feast of Christ the king was first proclaimed by Pius XI in 1925.  He decided to proclaim a feast acknowledging Christ as the legitimate ruler of the universe because of the problems of nationalism and secularism.  I’m sure Pius never dreamed that he would be so prophetic, for these have absolutely wreaked havoc in the last 100 years.  Think of the destruction of the Second World War, spurred on by nationalism.  Think of the countless millions killed and imprisoned in Soviet Russia or Communist China as a result of secularism.  I heard a statistic one time that said more people have died in the last 100 years from war or violence than any other time in human history.  This past week we celebrated Thanksgiving, and it is certainly true that we have much to be thankful for; but, there should be much that concerns us as well, because secularism is a major problem facing us today.  On this feast of Christ the King, I want to reflect on secularism and see how our faith can counter this terrible trend.
Where to begin?  Before I talk a bit about secularism, let’s begin with Christ.  Today in the gospel Jesus proclaims to Pilot that he has come into the world to testify to the Truth.  For some reason, the people who put together the lectionary left out the next line from Pontius Pilot, he says: what is truth?  This is the question that our world struggles with today.  What is truth, is there truth, if something is true for me is it also true for others?  What is truth?  Namely, Jesus is the Truth.  He is the Word of God, sent from the Father to bring life and light to the human race.  He shows in his very incarnation the truth that God is the maker of the universe, who loves us so much so as to die to reunite us with him.  Christ proclaims an objective reality where God is the maker, ruler, and sustainer of all things, and that his kingdom is precisely a kingdom of love and peace.  This is the truth!  No matter what anyone else might say or believe, this is absolutely true.  No wonder Jesus says that anyone who belongs to the truth listens to his voice.  Only in Christ do we find the truth about life, the world, everything.
Now let’s look at the lie of secularism that stands in contradiction to the truth. Secularism is the doctrine that holds for a strict separation between faith and life.  Notice I didn’t say that secularism holds for a separation between Church and State.  In fact, a separation between Church and State is a good thing, we would never want elected officials who are worried about reelection running the Church.  Politicians worry about public opinion and polls; the Church is concerned only with the truth.  But, the truth is that as believers we are believers 24/7.  There can be no separation between faith and life, because our faith is our life.  The truth of existence is that Christ is king, we believe this truth so we listen to his voice.  This voice should shape our lives, everything we do should be affected by our faith, by our belief.  This means that everything we do should be done with the faith in mind: are you a doctor or lawyer, you should be a Catholic doctor or lawyer, do you work in a factory or field, be a Catholic witness in the workplace.  Proponents of secularism want you to check your faith at the door, but if Christ is king then our Catholic faith has to have an impact in our daily lives, especially in the public sphere.
Make no mistake, we live in difficult times.  Secularism is predominant in our country.  Many of us have already accepted the subtle allure of this harmful idea.  But as we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, I think we should all renew our efforts to first listen to Christ, to see him as the objective truth that will set us free, then we should not be afraid to share this truth with the world around us.  We draw our strength from Christ, present here in the Holy Eucharist, to proclaim to the whole world that indeed Christ is King.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The end of the World

End of the World

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B:
            Today we hear some pretty sobering news: the world is going to end.  I'm quite tempted, at this point, to just end the homily and sit down.  The major thrust of Jesus words today is quite simple: this present world will pass away, are we ready?
            Every year at this time our readings focus on the end times.  As we approach the end of the Church's liturgical year we are reminded that time is not simply running without an end in sight.  Rather, the world as we know it will come to an end one day, at that time there will be new heavens and a new earth.  Jesus is giving us a warning in the gospel today: be like the fig tree, know the times and seasons, be ready for trial and tribulation.
            If you are like most people your blood pressure is probably starting to rise.  You might be getting a bit nervous.  Doesn't all this end of the world stuff worry you?  You are probably waiting for me to let you off the hook: don't worry the end is not really coming, etc.  But, you will not get that from me today.  For indeed the end is coming, we know neither the day nor the hour.
            Why do we get so worked up about the end of the world?  I remember once I was  visiting a class at Marian and the kids were all worked up about the end of the world because a movie said that it was coming to an end in 2012.  So they asked me if the world was going to end in 2012 and I simply said yes, next question.  Well, of course, it doesn't look like the world will end in the next 6 weeks.  But, the end of the world should not really cause us much panic for 2 reasons.
            First, there is absolutely nothing we can do about the end of the world.  The Father in heaven knows the day and the hour, none of us know it.  And even if we knew the day, we wouldn't be able to stop it.  This is not Jesus' point anyway.  He does not tell us to forestall the end; rather, he simply tells us to be ready for it.  So we shouldn't be worried about the end of the world, because it will happen when it happens regardless of our worrying about it.  Anxiety will get us nowhere.
            Secondly, we should not be worried about the end of the world because when the end comes Jesus comes with it.  Every week we profess our creed together, we say that we believe that Jesus Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead and that his kingdom will have no end.  Even though we say this every week, do we stop to think about it?  Just because Jesus has not returned in the last 2000 years does not mean that he couldn't return today.  Are we ready?  Holding the doctrine that Jesus could return at any time should not fill us with dread, it should fill us with excitement.  I mean don't we want to see Jesus?  Every week we pray for his coming.
            Every year at this time we are reminded that the end is coming.  But, this should not cause us concern or anxiety.  First, because that anxiety will change nothing; second, because this end means the beginning of eternity with God in Christ.  The key here is to maintain a balance: yes the end is coming, we should be ready, be on the lookout for the signs, but it should not fill us with dread; rather, it should fill us with hope as we long to see the reign of our savior, which begins even now as we turn our lives over to him and place all our trust in him.