Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe,
Closing of the Holy Year
Reading I Second Samuel 5:1-3
Reading II Colossians 1:23-20
Gospel: Luke 23:35-43
Looking back on time, World War I took place in the early part of the 20th century from 1917-1919. As a result of that war, things began to change and that is when Pope Pius XI choose to name this feast in 1925 to culminate all the readings and everything of our faith to praise God for being a part of his Kingdom. So today we look at things differently. As I mentioned to the children, Jesus was not a king like the Queen of England, or the King of England, or a king of any country in history. He came to give us a whole different experience of kingdom, and he gave the Kingdom for everybody. When we look at the cross, the two criminals are not there. It was done that way to show that Jesus was one of us. He was doing all of these miracles, and the world had never experienced anyone like him. His crown was not of jewels, it was of thorns. His robe was simply a white robe hanging around him.
You and I might take a look at ourselves and ask, “Which criminal am I?” At the crucifixion there was a criminal of each side of Jesus. So we ask, “Which criminal am I? Am I saying to Jesus, ‘Oh, Jesus. I didn’t really mean to commit that sin, but will you just overlook it.’ ”
Then the other criminal might say, or you and I might say, “I am guilty of whatever. But I know that you have something that I need and I just ask, ‘Will you let me be with you in paradise?’ ”
So this morning we have to think about the kingdom that you and I are creating in this world. Is it a kingdom of justice and integrity and home? Or is it a kingdom where we think, “I am sure if I accumulate enough stuff I am sure to go to heaven. Or, if I do just enough to get by, I am sure you will understand.” Or, can we be compassionate and humble and say, “God, I am a sinner, I just ask that you understand. You are the only one who can forgive, and you don’t belong on this cross but you are doing it for me so please, may I be with you in your Kingdom?”
What does that Kingdom look like that Jesus wants us to be a part of? We have heard it for 52 weeks. It’s a kingdom where we all get along with each other. It’s a kingdom where we don’t want any separation, where we accept all religions, where we accept every person for who they are. That’s not easy. Not in the human mind or in the human body. But Jesus says, “It will be easy if you trust me.”
You know, when we go into Holy Week we wash feet. This morning we need to ask, “Whose feet did we wash during these past 52 weeks?” Where did God send you and me to wash another person’s feet and to humble ourselves into saying, “I really don’t agree with you, but I love you.” Or, “I think I could help you. Do you mind?”
Sometimes we are afraid when people have disabilities. How would you feel if you came to church here and you were the only one who could hear and speak? Everyone else in this church, 300 people are here, and they are all deaf. Would you feel comfortable? What if they all came in with different problems that they were blessed by God at birth to have? Everybody here needs your attention and you are the only one here — the so-called “newbie,” the “All-American person,” “the all-perfect person.” What would you do with 300 people all around you and they all need your attention?
What if you were here and there were 300 infants in the room and you were the only adult? And they were all crying and they were restless and they wanted to go to the bathroom; they wanted everything and you are the only one. Jesus said, “When I put you here I didn’t separate anybody. I put you here to all be together.” But just notice your neighbor. Notice the person with whom you work, the person at work who just agitates you to no end and if you don’t take the time to talk and open a conversation, you will never know what that person is going through. If you knew, you might take a different view of that person.
That is the washing of the feet. That’s why on Good Friday you and I come up here and we venerate this cross. We either kiss the cross, or we bow, or we genuflect because we owe everything to the man who is hanging there. He suffered and died for all of our sins and he said, “I don’t expect you to be perfect. All I want to know is: ‘Do you still love me? Because I will never stop loving you.’ ”
How many times do we look at our cellphone or phone at home to see who is calling and think, “I don’t want to talk to that person.” Maybe you don’t, but maybe that person needs to talk to you. When we come here together to celebrate Eucharist and we receive the body and blood of Christ, we are saying to ourselves and to each: “Now that Christ lives in me, I will be Christ to you. I want to make a difference in your life.”
So this kingdom that we are celebrating today, it is often not a comfortable kingdom. Jesus says, “If you look at my life, for 33 years if was not comfortable for me either. But it was all God’s plan and the Father gave me the grace to go through this. Always remember, this is only part of it. I died on the cross. They thought they got rid of me. They put me in a tomb. And I surprised them all. The tomb was rolled back and I went to the Father.”
That’s the message. So today you and I are asking, “How do I accept that message?” On Christmas we talk about giving each other gifts. Have you ever thought when you come to church on Christmas, “I wonder what gift God is going to give me this Christmas? How he is going to energize me to live the Gospel? And do I want to open up that gift?” Or, do we sometimes say, “I don’t really like this gift. I’ll just give it to someone else next Christmas.”
And Jesus says, “Oh, don’t pull that trick on me. I’m giving you a gift different from everybody else’s gift. I want to know. Will you open that gift? And when you open it, just know that whatever I am asking of you — I will be there for you 24-7.”
So the joy of this feast is for you and I to come here, very humbly, this morning and say, “God, I have gone through this whole year and I have been sitting here day in and day out. I do a lot of good things and I’m trying. And I know one thing. I’m not perfect. But I know that you died for me and you are telling me: ‘Don’t give up. No matter what, don’t give up.’ ”
That is the message we should take out of church this morning. We think, “You know, during the past 52 weeks there were a lot of days when I really did love everyone, and some days I was infatuated with myself. There were some days when I saw someone in need and I walked down the other side of the street because I didn’t want to face that situation. But in the midst of it all, you never left me. And so today, I am ready to start another year next week. I am ready to say, ‘I know who you are. And when I die, will you take me into your Kingdom?’ ”
Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.