Monday, November 26, 2012

The World is Not Enough - Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King

            Pilate is facing a paradox today. Before him stands the King of Glory, the King of the Universe, Jesus Christ—but where is the glory? Pilate only sees a man, the “King of the Jews.” Yet, Jesus tells him that His kingdom is “not of this world.” That strikes me: didn’t Jesus tell us His kingdom is “at hand.” How is it “at hand” and yet “not of this world”? I find myself, like Pilate, scratching my head, wondering who this is in front of me.
            The solution to the paradox requires a greater sight than the power my eyes possess. There is something beyond the visible going on here. On one level, I can recall beyond my mere power of sight that Jesus has done many glorious things while He walked on earth: so many miracles: walking on water, feeding the multitudes, healing the impossibly infirm, raising the dead, teaching with deep wisdom, acting with great dignity and patience. So many glimpses of glory He gave to us: the sky being torn open at His baptism; the manifestation of His glory at the Transfiguration; His Resurrection from the dead and walking among us, glorified; His ascension; His promise to return in glory. Why do I not remember these when I am faced with a humble Jesus—a Jesus whose noble kingship is presently being questioned by Pilate?
John in his Book of Revelation tells us that “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.” This is a promise and a warning to us: we must remember Jesus’ glory and we must look to it. We must look beyond the mere things of this world and remember and anticipate the glory of the “one who is, who was, and who is to come”—the one who Daniel “saw… coming, on the clouds of heaven.”
Pilate could not see. Perhaps he was blinded by a lack of faith. Perhaps he was blinded by his own desire for power. Perhaps he was worried about having a king greater than the earthly one to which he had sworn his life. Perhaps Pilate was anxious about the change that this King, Jesus, would require if He were to rule in his life. Whatever it was, Pilate had to look beyond the kingdom of this world, to look to something “not of this world,” for if there was a lesson that Pilate needed to learn in that moment, I think, it was that the world is not enough.

            You may have heard of the name Ian Fleming. He is the author of the James Bond books which have been created into the movies of which many of us know. Ian Fleming, when he was a boy, attended a boarding school in England in the 19-teens. Down the road from the boarding school was a large mansion, built during the Elizabethan era of England—in the mid-1500s, a time when Catholics were being persecuted in that country. The persecutions were so bad that many Catholic families found themselves having to smuggle in priests to have Holy Mass said in their homes. Some families even altered their homes and built priest hideaways in the floors or in the walls so that, when the police came looking for the priest, the priest could escape and the family would avoid persecution. This mansion down the road from Ian Fleming’s boarding school was built during that time and he found it very interesting. How do I know this?
            Well, the name of the family that owned the house was the Bond Family. In fact, the creators of the new Bond film have taken this detail from Ian Fleming’s life and have incorporated it into the new film—but you’ll have to see the film to see how they do that.
            What strikes me is this: the Bond family lived during a time when Jesus Christ, the King of Glory... when His Kingdom appeared meek and humble. When… like Jesus before Pilate today, the glory was not evident. There was skepticism, doubt, arrests, questioning, mistrust, persecution. The Bond family, however—they had everything. A large home with everything in it. Yet they lived in a time of upheaval and uncertainty. If there was a time when a people would recognize that the world was not enough, it would have seemed to have been during that time. And the Bonds, you would think, would have learned that lesson well. 
            But did they? Every noble family in England would have had a family crest, with emblems and imagery, telling the family history and story, showing to others what was important to the family. Below the crest would have been a Latin motto. The Bond Family had a crest and it had a Latin motto. You might be interested in what is said. It read: “Orbis Non Sufficit.” Translation: The World Is Not Enough.
            I believe the Bond family figured out during that age of persecution that, no matter how much a person has or owns, no matter how much power or fame a person possesses, it will never be enough. It can be taken away in a heartbeat. And what is left?

            Before Jesus died, He beckoned us to pray. And He gave us the best prayer of all: The Our Father. There is a great line in that prayer. We pray: Adveniat Regnum Tuum: “Thy Kingdom Come.” What a great prayer for us who are suffering, who are looking for The More. What a great prayer for us who are comfortable, to remind us that all is passing away. What a great prayer for us all, to exhort us to look forward to the glory that is present now but hidden, to be revealed soon. Adveniat… Advent… waiting for His Coming.
            I will admit: it is tough to live in this “in-between time”—the time in-between Jesus’ glorious Ascension and His coming again in glory at the end of time, when “thy kingdom come.” But Jesus’ Kingdom is “at hand”! We, like Pilate, are faced with the paradox of a glorious God-King presented as a humble, meek, and lowly servant Jesus, “having become a slave.” In this Eucharist, Jesus is just as humble, just as lowly. But just as present! We have reminders to alert us that there is a King here: the gold vestments, the beautiful candlestands, the altar, the music, the prayers, the testimony of the Word of God, the witness of the martyrs and saints who have come before us and worshipped.
            Like Pilate, we are being presented the King, humble. It is here that I realize the next line of the Our Father. It says, “Thy Will Be Done.” This is the tougher of the two lines in that prayer. It is easy to ask God to bring His glory. It is tougher to say to God: I’ll be a servant for your glory. Your Will Be Done. Because that means that we aren’t the king.
            Pilate could not accept this. He would not give his allegiance. He would not serve.
But Pilate is missing out. In refusing to serve Jesus, Pilate ironically becomes a slave to the world—a world that is passing away. Pilate misses out on being a prince in the Kingdom of God that is eternal; for, as we hear in Sacred Scripture, “you have become heirs of a kingdom.” Did you know, brothers and sisters in Christ, that you are adopted sons and daughters of the Father? And since He is the King, did you know that this makes you princes and princesses in His Kingdom! What dignity you have!
            And what a calling! To be dignified: to not get caught up in the muck of the world, to not be entranced by the long lines purchasing a fleeting world on Black Whatever-Day. What a calling! to hold ourselves up with confidence, walking in the grace of Christ the King, being able to hold our heads up even while all the world around us falls down. My friends, “Be of good cheer” for Christ Our King has “overcome the world”!
            St. Ignatius Loyola, a great saint in the Church, was once a soldier for a king. Ignatius one day learned that the world is not enough and that there is a greater king, a king of glory who gives us a great inheritance worthy of giving our life for it. When Ignatius discovered this humble King, he realized that he had to do everything “for the greater glory of God.” And so he penned a beautiful prayer, offering this King, Jesus, his allegiance and love. I will leave you with his prayer.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

On the Occasion of the Upcoming Anniversary of the Implementation of the Roman Missal

Of three things in life we can be certain: death, taxes, and liturgical changes.

That might sound cynical, but if we were to take a step back in time and look upon each of the past six decades, we would notice many changes surrounding the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Say, for example, you were to attend Holy Mass in 1960 and then attend in 1970, you would notice quite a few changes-- the most changes of any decade. Likewise, if you were to then attend in 1980, you would notice a few more (but, honestly, not nearly as many as before). Some things would change if you were to attend in 1990 and also in 2000, but those things that changed would not be quite as noticeable. Skip ahead to 2012, and you would see more differences.

And, of course, the degree of changes and the speed to which things were changing would depend on where you lived and which bishop pastored your diocese.

In recent years, liturgical matters have been moving-- in comparison with how ecclesial things often move-- at lightning speed. Last year, at the beginning of Advent, you may recall that a few words of the Holy Mass changed. Time flies.

(And if you have a particularly cognizant pastor, more than just "And also with you" changed too.....)

During this Year of Faith, it is important to kind of "catch up" on what the Church has been saying about the liturgy during the past seven years. I pick seven because the year 2005 begins Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate-- a pontificate which has done much with regards to faith and worship.

Recently in St. Louis, Most Reverend Peter Elliott, auxiliary bishop of Melbourne, Australia, gave a lecture on current liturgical matters. He provides a fine summary of current thought, trends, and the new liturgical movement happening today. To those who have no care for the Holy Mass, these matters might seem trivial. But for those who truly believe that at the Mass we find the "source and summit" of the Christian faith, such matters might be something worth becoming acquainted. 

Bishop Elliott's quite readable and heavily footnoted lecture can be found here. If you do not have time to read it all, I would humbly submit the following line as the golden nugget of his lecture:

"The hermeneutic of continuity means that we should interpret the Second Vatican Council as part of the continuous growth of the living tradition of the Church, that is, only in continuity with all other Councils, not as a sharp break with the past. [Pope Benedict XVI] thus rejects the distinction between “pre-conciliar” and “post-conciliar” Catholicism."