Sunday, 23 November 2008

Christ the King - Year A

Ezekiel 34: 11-12.15-17; 1Corinthians 15:20-26.28; Matthew 25:31-46

The crisis of today is the refusal to believe in moral absolutes. We believe that truth cannot be known with certainty. Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t!

Today we no longer have truth, we have opinions. And the question arises: How can one be a Christian who is a person of faith in absolutes, in this climate of disbelief, or at least uncertainty? What is right? What is wrong? Who is right? Who is wrong? Is there an absolute right and an absolute wrong or is everything relative?

And perhaps the most crucial question of all: Does man decide what is true or does he merely discover what is true?

And yet, this has been to some degree the crisis of every age. As soon as you get more than one idea in your head you have to ask “Which is right?”

In this age of rejection of absolutes the Catholic Church is taking an unmerciful beating. The Church stands like a lofty mountain island in the midst of a constantly changing sea. The Church does not share the uncertainty of the world and goes on stubbornly proclaiming the truth she receives from Christ, in season and out of season. It is this conviction that she is passing on the truth God has revealed to her which gives her strength and confidence in the face of a disapproving world.

Look at her teaching on contraception and abortion and homosexuality and, to take a contemporary example, her stance on the heroin ‘safe’ injecting rooms for addicts. Here in Sydney, years after the event, many are still angry with the Church for banning this proposal.

The Church takes no notice of how many people believe her teachings, or how many votes her teachings win her among the people. She has a mandate from Christ to teach the truth. Indeed, the Church teaches the truth as Christ is described as teaching it in Matthew 22:16: Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in an honest way, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you. That is how the Church teaches as well, because she teaches in the person of Christ and with the voice of Christ.

Let us now turn to the Gospel of today and listen to Christ teaching us. Let us accept his teaching as absolute and receive it with certainty.

Jesus said to his disciples …

Are you convinced that Jesus, who spoke these words 2000 years ago to his disciples, is still speaking them today to you - to all of us here in the Camperdown church today? The word of Jesus does not go stale and out of date. Heaven and earth will pass away, says Jesus, but my words will not pass away.

When the Son of Man comes …

We note that Jesus is not speaking about a possibility here but a certainty, an absolute reality, that we will all experience. He does not say if or maybe; he says when the Son of Man comes…
… in his glory.

This is an important matter. When Jesus came on earth 2000 years ago as the helpless infant born of the Virgin Mary, he came as the merciful Saviour. Now however, Jesus is speaking about an entirely different time. Now he is speaking about the time when he will come no longer as merciful saviour but as just Judge. This will be a terrible time of truth for the whole cosmos! Our God, who is truth, will gather all the angels and all the nations into his presence. He will be seated as King on his throne of glory. No longer the helpless infant of Bethlehem or the gentle lamb who opened not his mouth before his accusers during his Passion, now Jesus comes in glory with all the nations assembled before him.

It will be a terrible moment of truth because all that is hidden will be laid bare. As Jesus told his disciples in Luke 12:2: Everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.

It will be a terrible moment of truth also because it cannot be avoided. We are used to having many options in our lives. We are able to choose what pleases us most and we are able, most often, to avoid what displeases us. It's often as simple as changing the channel to avoid that unpleasant bit of film we don’t want to see. But when Jesus comes in his glory to judge the whole of creation we won’t be able to change the channel or take a sleeping tablet. It will be a moment of reckoning, where whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places will be proclaimed on the housetops.

To conclude I make one more point. The presiding Judge, seated on his throne of Justice, will judge according to the two main commandments of the Law - love of God and love of neighbour.

It is always a temptation to reduce the moral life to love of neighbour as a means to avoid things like personal prayer, reading and praying Scripture, and going to Mass on Sunday. This is not the intention of the parable at all.

It does not absolve us from our duty to love God nor should we allow it simply to reduce love of God to love of neighbour. Jesus told many parables and gave many teachings. Not only will those who refused food and clothing and love to the hungry, the naked and the lonely find themselves turned away from the Kingdom but also those who heard the word of God and failed to keep it, those who hid their talents, those who were not ready at the Master’s coming, those without a wedding garment, those who worshipped false gods, those who rejected Jesus as Saviour.

But having said all that I think we would be foolish not to allow the message of this parable to sink deep into us. We will be judged according to the way we have loved God and neighbour. And one of the ways God loves to be loved is via our neighbour.

… in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine you did it to me.

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