I must tell you at the outset that I wrote this homily 19 years ago for the Feast of Christ the King in 1995. May I say – “in all humility,” of course – that I liked what I read and decided not to change a word of it? This is what I said that morning so long ago –
I’ve been looking back over the past two weeks and realizing how rich they have been for me in personal experiences.
I saw a Broadway musical that contrasted human love and decency with the perversion and corruption that flourish in a time of war.
I baptized a beautiful 5-day-old baby boy, surrounded by his family in the intensive care nursery where he was awaiting the surgical removal of a massive brain tumor.
I dined at the Thanksgiving table of young relatives of mine, enjoying the warmth of family love, intelligent conversation, hearty laughs, and a bountiful meal.
I attended a lecture by the world-famous Sister Joan Chittister at the Benedictine Abbey in Morristown, New Jersey.
I read a book about the spiritual journey of a former Trappist monk.
Those were the highlights; and I knew there was much more.
I connected those weeks with St. Paul’s use of the term “saints in light” in the portion of his letter to the Colossians we heard today. It occurred to me that the “saints in light” are not those who have died and moved on to perfect union with the Creator – to heaven, as we put it. They are, rather, Christians living on this earth who are enlightened by God’s word, God’s wisdom, and God’s presence as they experience God in the person of Jesus.
For Paul, a saint wasn’t someone who is flawless, absolutely untouched by sin; by “saint” he meant a person who is joined with Jesus for the whole journey of life. A saint is that man or woman who pays close attention to what Jesus says and who cares enough to think about it and to understand it and to make it his or her guide in every life situation.
As I reflected on my recent experiences, I realized that each of them had shed that light. Let me explain –
In “Miss Saigon” I heard Jesus telling me to work for peace wherever I can because war is always brutalizing and dehumanizing.
At little Joshua’s Baptism in the intensive care nursery I felt the eternal life which alone could make sense out of this otherwise tragic happening and offer hope to all who were afflicted by it.
Sister Joan’s powerful words compelled me to examine again my lifestyle and the possibility of my complicity in unjust, exploitative, greedy systems that make a few very rich and keep the masses poor and deprived.
At that Thanksgiving dinner with my family I tasted the “more abundant life” that Jesus alone can give fully and to which every human desire is ultimately reducible.
And by the former monk’s book my faith was tested and I became the more eager to know the real Jesus, without the overlays that religion and tradition have applied down through the ages.
It is the Feast of Christ the King, a concept that can’t mean to us what it would have meant to people of Jesus’ day. But even from our childhood stories, we know that a good king is a light to his people, leading them out of darkness and fear and the drudgery of their lives. Our king sheds light through an unpredictable succession of persons, events, and situations, making us the “saints in light” we were created to be.