Letting the King be king

November 26, 2012

Sunday’s Solemnity of Christ the King comes between the memorials of two of my favorite Jesuit martyrs, Bl. Miguel Pro (Nov. 23) and St. Edmund Campion (Dec. 1).  These priests were killed in the religious persecution of twentieth century Mexico and sixteenth century England respectively.  The proximity of these feast days reminds me of the issue that has lately been atop the list of the American bishops’ concerns:  religious liberty.

I was asked to give a reflection for a community gathering on the feast of Miguel Pro, and as I thought about his life and martyrdom the question that I couldn’t shake was:  why are American Catholics not more concerned about religious liberty?  Catholic institutions have already been shuttered in Illinois and Massachusetts, and powerful cultural voices are explicitly calling for the exclusion of Christianity from the public square.  Pro’s death occurred less than a century ago and on this continent.  Do we think it cannot happen here?  Why do American Catholics seem so sleepy?

There are obvious answers:  the indifference (and often hostility) of the media; a general climate of secularism and religious indifferentism; political commitments that make raising the question uncomfortable for some, especially in an election year.  But it’s perhaps more instructive to look a bit deeper, at attitudes ingrained in our American outlook that make us drowsy when it comes to religious liberty.  Among other factors, three modern myths stand out. Read the rest of this entry »

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Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year A

November 19, 2011

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Ez 34:11-12, 15-17; Ps 23; 1Cor 15:20-26, 28; Mt 25:31-46.

Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of ordinary time.  The image of kingship and kingdom, like most of the images used to describe Christ, is rich and multifaceted.  All of today’s readings, however, either feature or allude to a certain dimension of Christ’s kingly power: his role as Judge.  Ezekiel, describing the Lord as a royal shepherd, reports that the Lord “will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats” (Ez 34:17).  The Gospel of Matthew makes the link between King, Shepherd, and Judge even clearer when it describes the Son of Man seated “upon his royal throne” (25:31) and separating the nations “as a shepherd separates sheep from goats” (25:32).  In the reading from 1 Corinthians, Christ does not separate any sheep, but he does destroy every “sovereignty, authority, and power” (1Cor 15:25) hostile to himself, so that “God may be all in all” (1Cor 15:28).  Christ, in other words, is judge of everything.

It’s no secret that the theme of judgment has always been central to Christian preaching and, therefore, to the Christian imagination.  For many nowadays, however, it seems to provoke only anxiety, and to have so little to do with the “Good News” of the Kingdom. Read the rest of this entry »