Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, November 21, 2010 Feast of Christ the King, Ken Hughes, SJ


Feast of Christ the King

(Luke 23:35-43)


We don’t talk much about the Ten Commandments these days, but the official Church preaching seems to indicate that most violated commandments are the 6th and 9th commandments: "You shall not commit adultery" and "You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife." Parents here might think that the most violated commandment is the 4th commandment: "Honor your father and your mother." However, Latin American theologian, Jon Sobrino, claims that the most violated commandments are the 7th and the 10th: "You shall not steal" and "You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods." He claims, and rightly so, that the long history of South and North America and Africa are mostly stories of Europeans stealing land from native people and, after stealing the land, enslaving the people themselves. Then, he goes on further to say that, after the great violations of the 7th and 10th commandments comes the terrible violation of the 5th commandment: "You shall not kill." Because, in order to keep what they had stolen, these same plunderers slaughtered and killed countless people. Truth be told, this stealing and killing goes on today, everyday, whenever the rich hoard property and goods for themselves at the cost of millions dying from poverty and hunger all over the world. The homicide this week in our own back yard is simply the logical continuation of centuries of plundering and killing.

Still, despite all I have just said, I believe that the most violated commandment is actually the 1st commandment: "I am the Lord, your God. You shall not have strange gods before me." Jesus spelled it out fully and clearly: "The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." In other words, is God truly number one in my life? Is God the king and ruler of my heart? Is Jesus, the Shepherd, the one who guides my thoughts, my choices, my actions? I think that most of us would have to confess that we are number one in our own life: I am number one in my life and you are number one in your life. And then, hopefully, God comes in at least number two.

One way to look at our life journey and our life goal is striving to change the order so that more and more, my life focuses on God and God’s concerns rather than on myself and my concerns. I cannot do that on my own. But I can express my desire to God to lead me in his direction. It is fitting, therefore, that today’s Feast of Christ the King comes at the very end of the liturgical year. The whole movement of the year is to let Jesus be increasingly the king of our heart, the king of our life.

Thanksgiving Day supports us in this movement. Next Thursday, we take time to say, "Thank you to God." Since my return from Jamaica 18 years I have celebrated a Thanksgiving Mass and meal with my family. During the Mass we take time to remember all the good gifts we have received in the past year and thank God for each one. We thank God for our family and friends, for caring neighbors, for the life and energy we do enjoy, despite aging. We thank God for our home and safety, for work and rest, for our faith, our faith communities, and our charitable works. We thank God for those gifts special to each one. Personally, I thank God for New England seasons, though I may stand alone in thanking God for winter and winter snow too!

This spirit of thankfulness helps us, first of all, to put God first. We acknowledge God as the Giver of all gifts and that, indeed, all is gift. We are entitled to nothing. In thankfulness, we hold all things in open hands. Secondly, a spirit of thankfulness leads to greater happiness for only a thankful person can be truly happy. Gratitude is the foundation for happiness. Thirdly, my experience has shown me that the more thankful I am, the more God gives me gifts. Or, maybe I am just more aware of them. But I believe that God delights in being thanked just as we do. And, fourthly, a spirit of thankfulness leads to generosity, a wanting to share one’s blessings with others. And that, too, brings happiness.

Therefore, as we celebrate both the Kingship of Jesus today and our Day of Thanksgiving on Thursday, may we see more clearly the giftedness of all life. May we be more grateful to God. May we place ourselves more trustingly in God our King’s loving hands. And may we be more ready to share our happiness with others. For God’s kingdom is the paradise of peace and happiness for which the good thief of today’s Gospel, and we and all people yearn from the depths of our hearts.

Ken Hughes SJ 

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