Christ the King 2015:
Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the king. This is the last Sunday of Ordinary time, Advent starts next week. In the gospel today, we listen to the conversation between Jesus and Pontius Pilate. The words of Jesus are somewhat haunting: my kingdom is not here. These words bring sadness, since Jesus’ kingdom is not here, he suffers and dies. It can be easy to think that these words still hold true today. Think about the terrorist attacks in France or Mali. It seems like every time I check the news there is some outbreak of evil or violence. Every time we experience evil, sin, death, we can think: his kingdom is not here.
I sometimes meet people who are overly pessimistic. The evil in the world has beaten them down. They say, “the world is terrible, and there is nothing good.” But, this kind of pessimism is incompatible with Christianity. We are not allowed to be pessimists like this.
True, the world is broken and fallen. True, we experience real pain, real evil. But, Jesus Christ has conquered the world. Today, on this feast day, we proclaim that Christ is King. This is a proclamation that the evil doesn’t win. That Christ, and his kingdom of peace and justice, will reign for all time.
We do well to see where his kingdom does exist in this world. Whenever we experience love, his kingdom is here. Whenever we experience mercy, his kingdom is here. Whenever we experience peace, justice, courage, strength, his kingdom is here.
The kingdom of Christ is not just something for us to take in and experience ourselves. The kingdom is also something for us to spread. This weekend is our stewardship weekend for November. During this year for stewardship we’ve been praying this prayer for stewardship. I love the way it ends: help us to spread your kingdom.
This is the mission of St. Jude parish. This is the goal of stewardship. Really, it’s the mission of the whole Church. Our mission is to spread the kingdom of God, to proclaim that Christ is king. Indeed, this is our mission as St. Jude parish, a parish committed to the stewardship way of life.
I thought that I would share with you some of the ways that St. Jude Parish spreads the kingdom, ways that are only possible because of our commitment to stewardship. I chose three areas, but there are obviously more. We spread God’s kingdom by worship, education, and service.
The most important thing we do is praise and worship almighty God. This is the heart of what it means to spread the kingdom. Because, if the kingdom doesn’t reign in our hearts first, we will never be able to spread that kingdom. It begins at the Holy Mass. St. Jude offers 16 masses per week. That’s 832 masses per year, not counting extra masses for weddings, funerals, and holy days of obligation. By my estimates, there are over 2500 people per week who attend Mass here. Our community comprises the young and old, rich and poor, from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences. Yet, we all come to this altar to praise and worship almighty God, to proclaim that Christ is king of our lives and of our hearts. Combined Fr Bob and I hear about 8 hours of confessions per week, not to mention penance services for the parish and in the school. There is a great love and commitment to the sacrament of God’s mercy here at St. Jude. Last year there were 69 people baptized, 6 people welcomed into the church, 62 first communions, 92 confirmations, 17 weddings, over 70 funerals. This is a parish that lives and thrives because of our dedication to worshiping God and celebrating the sacraments. Worship is at the heart of what we do. It brings the kingdom of God into our hearts.
Second, education is a huge priority for us here at St. Jude. We have a wonderful school and religious education program. Right now there are about 550 kids attending our school Pre-k – 8th grade. There are 94 students enrolled in our religious education program. Our faculty and staff are committed to Catholic education because we know this is an important way for us to spread the kingdom of God. By passing along our Catholic faith we are ensuring that the good news of Christ will be proclaimed by the next generation. We make a huge commitment to Catholic education here. Last year the parish subsidized the school spending $715,000 dollars for Catholic education. We gave another $90,000 in tuition assistance. These contributions make it possible for parishioners to send their children to this school, so they have a chance to learn about the kingdom of Christ. All of this is made possible by your generosity to the parish.
Finally, St. Jude is committed to service. So many people have given of their time, talent, and treasure to serve the needs of others. I certainly cannot name every activity that takes place here. But here are some. The social action committee sponsored outreach programs helping the Franciscan center, rescue mission, project linus, Matthew 25, literacy alliance, blue jacket, associated churches, just neighbors, habitat for humanity. Members of our St. Vincent de Paul society visited 362 people, and distributed almost $20,000 in aid. 452 people were helped with holiday food baskets. I don’t know if everyone knows this, but we set aside a portion of the parish offertory and use it for charitable works. We call it our parish tithe. Last year we made donations of over $27,000 for charitable works in the community and across the world.
I don't call your attention to these things so that we can be proud and gloat. But, I want everyone in the parish to see the connection between supporting and participating in the life of the parish and spreading the kingdom of God.
All of these events and activities are possible because we have committed to a stewardship way of life. You spread the kingdom of Christ when you participate in the life of the parish. When you give back from your time, talent, and treasure, you are spreading the kingdom of Christ.
It brings sadness to think of all the ways that Christ’s kingdom is not here. But, we are not pessimists. We are full of hope. Christ has conquered sin and death. Christ is Lord and King of the universe. He is king in our hearts and king of the world. And with eyes of faith, we can see his kingdom become more present in our world.
As a parish, we are committed to Christ. We proclaim him as our king, and as we go forth from this holy altar, we acknowledge and accept the mission our king has given us to spread his kingdom. Our stewardship prayer expresses it so well: Lord, help us to spread your kingdom, where you live and reign forever, and ever, Amen.