Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Agnes Church, Manhattan
24th and Last Sunday after Pentecost
November 22, 2015
Col 1:9-14, Mt 24:15-35
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following text guided the homily:
Today in the ordinary form of the Latin Rite the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King, which is the culmination of the entire liturgical year, helping us to ponder not only the end of time but also how to live in the present time, recognizing the kingdom Christ came to bring into the world, entering into it, helping others to enter into it, and living in such a way that we may share in its fullness forever. While in the extraordinary form, we celebrated Christ the King a month ago, today’s readings help us to revivify the graces of that feast, focusing us on actualizing the realities it indicates and preparing us for what is to come.
Today’s first reading is the same we heard on the feast of Christ the King, in which St. Paul reminds the Colossians and us that God the Father has “delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” That exodus through baptism from the kingdom of this world into the kingdom of Christ, through “the forgiveness of our sins,” is something, St. Paul says, that is supposed to flourish in seven different ways:
- Our being “filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” — to live in Christ’s kingdom means to have our minds renewed with Christ’s wisdom and understanding. To pray “Thy kingdom come!” means to pray at the same time, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Lord wants not just to give us some of this wisdom but to fill us with it and those who dwell in the kingdom hunger for it, receive it and respond to it.
- Our “Liv[ing] in a manner worthy of the Lord so as to be fully pleasing” — The summary of the Christian life is to please the Lord and we do so by living in a manner worthy of him, to live as Christians, or little Christs, to seek to model our behavior after his and follow him all the way.”
- “In every good work bearing fruit” — Our union with Christ as branches on the vine is meant to produce fruit. When he plants his seed within us, if we have good soil, we will bear 30, 60 or 100 fold. Our faith, our communion with God, is shown in the fruit of acts of love.
- “Growing in the knowledge of God” — The longer we are alive, the longer we’re dwelling in Christ’s kingdom, the more we are supposed to grow not merely in the knowledge of things about God, but in the personal knowledge of God, not just savoir but connaitre, not saber but cohecer, not sapere but conoscere. This is what makes living in the kingdom so exciting.
- “Strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might, for all endurance and patience” — The Christian life is going to be hard. Christ the King was crucified because many in the world rejected his kingdom, and Jesus promises us that if they hated him, they’d hate us too. But God doesn’t leave us there. He strengthens us with every power, in accordance with his glorious power, so that we might endure with heroic perseverance just as Christ the King.
- “With joy giving thanks to the Father” — The fundamental marks of Christians living in Christ’s kingdom are joy and thanksgiving. Christ came so that his joy might be in us and our joy be brought to completion. He was the happiest person who even lived and he came to give us the good news and have us enflesh it. Leon Bloy once said that joy is the infallible sign of God’s presence, because when we are aware that God is with us, the creator and savior of the world, the one who brought the greatest good out of the worst evil on Good Friday, we are filled with joy. And thanksgiving goes with joy, recognizing so many blessings even in the midst of hardships and bursting out with thanks to God and others.
- “Who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.” — God has made us fit, worthy, capable of sharing in the inheritance of all the saints in the light of Christ shining here in this world and illuminating the eternal Jerusalem. To live in the kingdom means to recognize our inheritance and be willing to trade in everything else for that great pearl. It means to take seriously that God has called us not just to be merely “good people” but holy, holy like St. Cecilia whom the Church remembers today, holy like St. Agnes the patron of this Church, holy like St. Miguel Pro, St. Columban, St. Clement whom the Church will celebrate tomorrow.
To live in the kingdom is to be filled with God’s knowledge, wisdom and understanding, to live in a manner worthy of God, to please him, to bear fruit in acts of love, to grow in personal friendship with God, to endure hardships strengthened by God’s almighty power, to be full of joy and gratitude, and to live as saints, receiving Christ’s light and in him becoming the light of the world.
That description of the kingdom helps us to grasp how we are to live at every time, but also during the end times. In today’s Gospel, we get a harrowing description of the end times. We hear of a “desolating abomination,” of “great tribulation” such as the world has never seen, of people fleeing to the mountains, of woe for pregnant women and nursing mothers, or mourning, false messiahs and prophets, vultures gathering around corpses, darkened suns and blackened moons, stars falling, and quakes in the sky. Jesus tells us that when all of this takes place, we’re not supposed to frightened, running like scared children everywhere the mobs tell us to go, believing what the gurus or polls say, because Jesus tells us he won’t be in deserts or inner rooms, here or there, because he will come like lightning. When we see any of these things happening — and lets be honest, many of these descriptions we witness somewhat regularly — Jesus wants us to know that already “he is near!” In fact, he will already be here, because he has already inaugurated his kingdom. And what he wants us to do is to build our lives on the rock of his holy word, so that whenever these storms occur and blow and buffet against us, against our families, against the Church, against the world, we will remain firm, because we have constructed our lives solidly on him. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” he says, “but my words will not pass away.” That’s why St. Paul prays for us to be filled with God’s knowledge, wisdom and understanding, to be strengthened by his power, and to live as saints radiating Christ’s light even with the sun goes dark and the moon is eclipsed. That’s what it means to live in Christ’s kingdom. It’s to base our life on the his words that will never expire. That’s one of the reasons why we finish every Mass in the extraordinary form pondering St. John’s prologue and going out into the world remembering that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
I’d like to make one application of what God’s word indicates us today about Christ’s kingdom and the way we’re supposed to live as saints, built on Christ’s word, in a way pleasing to God. Many in the world are now frightened by the diabolical terrorist menace that has taken so many lives recently in Beirut, Paris, Mali and so many other places that don’t make the news. It’s provoked a crisis with regard to immigrants, knowing that ISIS terrorists are taking advantage of the immigration crisis to infiltrate countries and there kill innocent people and terrorist whole peoples. How should a Christian living in Christ’s kingdom in a way fully pleasing to him respond? How should we as American Catholics respond to the question of immigration of Syrians and others from the Middle East? If we’re basing our lives on Christ, and living as saints in his Kingdom, then we must live by his word and example. When Christ the King came to inaugurate his Kingdom, he came both as the Good Samaritan and the Good Shepherd. As Good Samaritan, he crossed the road to take care of others and he says that when he judges us in his kingdom he will judge us on the basis of acts of love, whether we welcomed him when he was a stranger, or hungry or thirsty, or naked or sick or imprisoned. Jesus died, we know, not just for daily Mass goers, or just for Catholics, or just for Christians. He died for Muslims. He died for atheists. He died for everyone. And he wants us to love them — and because he wants us to love them he makes it easy, reminding us that whatever we do for the least of them we do for him. But at the same time, he is the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep. He is the gate of the sheepfold who names the wolves, the marauders, the thieves, the children of the evil one, and he prevents the wolves from coming in to harm his loved ones. So if we’re going to be living as children of the light in his kingdom, we need to remember both poles that admittedly are in tension: that he calls us to be Good Samaritans and Good Shepherds. How that works out politically is a challenge, no doubt, but it does rule out the facile political ideas of letting everyone in or letting no one in. To figure out what to do requires a lot of prayer, but we know, as St. Paul tells us today, that God wants to fill us with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. So let’s pray for it for ourselves and for others, as we prepare to receive within the King of Kings and are renewed in his kingdom and equipped from the inside to construct our whole life on his words that will never pass away and on the Word made flesh, who has risen from the dead!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
A reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians
Therefore, from the day we heard this, we do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The continuation of the Gospel according to St. John
Jesus said to his disciples, “When you see the desolating abomination spoken of through Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place, then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, a person on the housetop must not go down to get things out of his house, a person in the field must not return to get his cloak. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days. Pray that your flight not be in winter or on the sabbath, for at that time there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect they will be shortened. If anyone says to you then, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform signs and wonders so great as to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told it to you beforehand. So if they say to you, ‘He is in the desert,’ do not go out there; if they say, ‘He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. “Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, know that he is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”