25 November 2006

Homily - 26 November 2006

There is within each of us a deep longing. We somehow experience that we are not complete, individually, independently and on our own. There is a longing within us that reaches out to other people. This longing, this desire, is the basis of all friendship.

I recognize within myself that I cannot make myself happy, that something within me is missing or incomplete. I therefore look outside of myself for what seems to be missing and I find this person or that person, maybe even you. I am drawn to something within you that I do not find in myself and thus a friendship is born, for you are doing the same thing that I am. We both are looking for what seems to be lacking in ourselves.

If we allow this friendship to deepen it often becomes love, and often enough there are many levels, as it were, to love. We know this to be true with married couples. They are drawn to each other at first seeking their own completeness but as they grow in love they no longer seek their own good, but only the good of their spouse. They become servants of each other and thus grow in love together, following the example of Christ.

This longing, though, can never be satisfied with human friendship or love, but only with the friendship and love of God. Saint Augustine put this desire best when he wrote: “You made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you” (Confessions 1.1). Only when we serve Christ for no other reason than his own goodness will our hearts ever find peace. Only when we acknowledge Christ as King, and we as humble servants, will our hearts be at rest. Only when we serve Christ in each other will our souls find rest, for we are made for love and for service.

In Jesus Christ we find the epitome of service and kingship, the King whom we are to serve with all that we have and with all that we are. A king is set up to govern, to protect and care for his people. We know that few earthly kings have faithfully fulfilled the duties of their office but Christ has fulfilled his office and, because of this, he is “the King of kings and the Lord of lords” (I Timothy 6:15). As the Great King, Jesus Christ is also the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep (cf. John 10:14). He is the King who carries with him the shepherd’s crook and the shepherd who carries the King’s scepter (cf. Psalm 23:4). He is the just and merciful judge.

It is this Jesus, Crucified and Risen, whom John calls “the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5). Precisely on the Cross is his power manifested and revealed. His power is not military or political might, but love. The Roman poet, Virgil, said: Omnia vincit amor; et nos cedamus amori: Love conquers all; let us, too, yield to love (Bucolics, X, 69). The power of love has forever conquered the power of sin and death.

Our King is victorious and he calls us his friends if we do what he commands us (cf. John 15:14). The King invites us to follow the way of his glory – to take up the Cross of victory and triumph – to live with him and to experience his love.

His commands are simple, though not easy: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24); “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 17:7); “Love one another as I love you” (John 15:12).

We know that Christ the King “is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him” (Revelation 1:7). We know, too, that “when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32). Then the Last Judgment will begin and “all the peoples of the earth will lament him” because they will see that their own love pales in comparison to his (Revelation 1:7).

There will be those who, like John Milton’s Satan, lived their lives thinking to themselves, “Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven” (Paradise Lost, 1.261). They would not serve Christ and never found peace. Having refused both to be loved and to love, these will be lead away from the Great King into everlasting punishment.

There will also be those who, like Saint Anthony of Florence, lived their lives thinking to themselves, “To serve God is to reign.” They served Christ and found peace, and, having yielded to love and having loved in return, these will be escorted into everlasting joy. Why? As the King himself says, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

We hear, at the end of the liturgical year, the echo of Jesus’ words: “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.” The King will come and we must be prepared. We must, then, stay clear of sin and close to Jesus Christ. We cannot remain close to him unless we open our hearts to his love and receive him with reverence and devotion, unless we yield to him and allow his love to conquer our heart.

This question remains: will you serve Christ the King and be at peace, or will you serve yourself and be restless? Will you make Jesus Christ the center of your life or will you focus on your own desires? Better yet: are you afraid of the love of Christ?

I tell you, “Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ - and you will find true life” (Pope Benedict XVI, Inaugural Homily, 24 April 2005). Yield to the majestic splendor of his love and serve the Great King of heaven and earth, for love conquers all things.

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