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 ‘We thank God for this graced Year of Mercy’


By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

Nov. 23, 2016

Homily for the Closing of Jubilee Year of Mercy on the Feast of Christ the King Nov. 20

We remember that a few years ago the death of Princess Diana provoked a whole range of discussion, not just in Britain, but around the world, about the nature of royalty in modern society.  She was called the “people’s princess.”

Her life and death continue to raise questions about what makes someone royal, and what the role of members of a royal family should be in today’s society. 

Another woman who died about the same time as Princess Diana was canonized a saint earlier this year, a woman who many of us consider a “Queen of Hearts” – St. Mother Teresa.

Normally, when we think of kings and queens we picture Cinderella, castles and crowns, jewels, pomp and ceremony.  We think of riches, power and glamour.  So, what we could have expected for today’s feast would have been readings giving us a description of Christ as a great King, sitting at God’s right hand; of Christ sitting on His throne in heaven, judging all the nations of the earth.

But what the Church actually offers us is the story of how Christ died on the cross.  Whatever kind of king He is, He’s nothing like our human expectations of one. 

Recall the scene: His throne was a cross, His crown was made of thorns, His courtiers were His executioners, and the people closest to Him were common criminals.  What kind of king is this?

Why do we call Him a king at all?

The cross shows us what kind of king Jesus is: He is one who cares for us right to the end.  He cares enough to suffer and die.  He cares enough to be misunderstood and rejected.  He cares enough to seem a failure, prepared to make any sacrifice for the sake of those he loves.

We heard in our 1st reading that the Israelites made David their king.  What they expected of a king was that he be like God.  For them, that meant especially that the king should look after and defend those who couldn’t look after themselves. 

The king was the one who had to tend the weakest and the helpless, the powerless, the vulnerable.  He was to have a special concern for widows, orphans, the stranger, for the poor.

So, on today’s Feast of Christ the King, we hear in our Gospel of Christ the King, dying on the cross.  And it is at this moment that He is at His most God-like.  He is the Man who shows us - fully and uniquely - what God is like, because He gives and doesn’t count the cost.

He gives everything He has in order to protect those he loves - and that includes us here today.  He saves the weak and helpless, people unable to do very much for themselves. 

He loves you and me literally to death.

Christ asks us, His followers, to be kings and queens like Him.  That means looking out for others, taking care of the weak and the poor, those without friends or families to care for them properly, those without hope for the future, those without any real sense of their own value. 

He wants us to be kings and queens to these people, to care for them, even if it costs us, even if it isn’t easy, even if it means we get rejected and misunderstood.

Hasn’t that been the pervading theme that Pope Francis been teaching us throughout this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy - to be mindful of and to extend ourselves to the vulnerable, the marginalized, the poor, the forgotten?

Certainly, through the census visits we made recently in our local parishes, we have come to appreciate even more that we must reach out to our neighbors.  We cannot be indifferent to the hurting.

As we formally close the Jubilee Holy Door of Mercy at our St. Mary’s Cathedral, we thank God for the graces of mercy we have received and thank Him for the blessings of mercy we try to be for others.

There is a traditional prayer which says: “Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today; no feet but our feet to lead people in His ways; no tongue but our tongue to tell them how He died, and no help but our help to bring people to His side.” 

As disciples in mission, as members of God’s royal family, we are to offer people the love of God.  Where else will they find it?  We are invited to show people in practical ways how loving and merciful God is. 
To be royal like Christ, we need to be associated with the unattractive and unpopular, people who are different, laughed at and mocked.  We are truly kings and queens when we put flesh and blood on God’s love for humanity. 

We thank God for this graced Year of Mercy and pray to be mercy in motion every day. 

May God be praised…forever may God be praised!

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