Homily for Feast of Christ the King 2007
On this Sunday following the Federal Election it is important that we remember to pray for our politicians of all kinds. We don't pray just that they be honest and just to all. We pray especially for them as people who have taken on an enormous responsibility. The service of the community involved in a political career is a very demanding one.
It was a wonderful celebration on Friday night of the 150 anniversary of the Good Samaritan Sisters who were founded in 1857 in Sydney. Thanks to Marie and all those at St John's College, St Joseph's School and the Parish who contributed to the event. At such celebrations people often remark how they miss the Sisters in our schools and parishes. We were celebrating all that they and their Benedictine tradition gave to the Church over many years. It is also a timely reminder that things do change, and change often. The Good Samaritans, for example, did not come into existence to be teachers. That was a natural result of their other work for the destitute and lost, especially women, in the early years of the Colony of New South Wales. We tend to identify religious sisters as being either teachers or nurses.
That, however, is a perspective of our own recent history. The education of the young and the nursing of the sick are very different from what they were 150 years ago. These days health and education have become enormous industries. They absorb a large part of government budgets. They are issues that are fought over as elections are won and lost. In this situation many religious orders have questioned their role as participants in those industries. They have asked themselves how best can we serve the lost and wounded of our world?
On this Feast of Christ the King we reflect on Jesus' exercising his Kingship on the cross. All through Luke's Gospel that we have been reading Sunday by Sunday this year, Jesus has been seeking out and saving the lost. We have listened to the stories of the lost coin, the lost sheep, the two lost sons in the parable of the prodigal, the woman of ill-repute who anointed him, the tax collectors, the Samaritans. Each week we have been reminded of Jesus mission to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and beyond. A climax comes in today's gospel in which a criminal dying beside him asks Jesus, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom."
This criminal, one of the lost and wounded ones, recognises Jesus' innocence and acknowledges his Kingship. And Jesus in return exercises his kingship as he continues to reach out to the lost when he says, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." He goes far beyond just agreeing to remember the criminal. He offers him eternal life. It is interesting that Jesus uses the word "paradise". It is, as you may know, a word borrowed from the Persian language, not the Hebrew, and means a "walled garden". We are familiar with this kind of garden from the book of Genesis where Adam and Eve were placed: the Garden of Eden. With his dying breath Jesus is offering the man a return to his original innocence. In effect here he offering a new beginning, a new creation.
So Jesus is King. Jesus is Lord in a way that we could not expect either Caesar nor Kevin to be. We need to pray that our leaders be people of justice and integrity. Because the political stage can bring out the best and the worst in those who aspire to power. We pray that they be sustained in servant leadership of our society.
This Gospel today is Jesus' last words to us on the last Sunday of the three year cycle of readings in our Liturgical Calendar. Over the last three years we have listened to Matthew, Mark and Luke. Next Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, we begin the cycle again with Matthew's Gospel. On this last Sunday then, Jesus words remain with us in our wounds and frailty, "Today you will be with me in paradise."