We have two homilies by Father Hanly for Christ the King, Year A. We have a recording and transcript for each homily.
Christ Our King
This is the first homily in our series of homilies by Father Hanly, and what better way to start our journey with Father than with a homily for the Feast of Christ the King, Year A, which looks at the difference between the kings of the world and Christ our King.
First Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 23:1-2, 2-3, 5, 6
Second Reading: First Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
I suppose that kings are a little bit out of date, but many of us who have grown up in recent times remember, especially as a child, the tales of the kings, and King Arthur and all these wonderful people.
Today, kings are merely a figurehead. A sign of a national loyalty, a reminder of history, but they serve a different purpose today.
So when we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, we’re celebrating the kings of the olden days.
Kings at that time were given ultimate sovereignty, ultimate authority over people. What they said went. And if the fate of a man in front of a king was to beg for life over death, so great was their strength and power — and power. To be a king was to be powerful.
The Jewish people asked Samuel, the last of the judges, to ask God if they could have a king like all the other kings around them. They really wanted to have a king. And Samuel went off to God and he asked God. And God was a little disappointed in that, because He thought that they didn’t need a king as long as He was there.
And so he said, a bit petulantly, “You can have your king. But remember this, and I’m warning you, that the purpose of kings is to raise young men, to take your young men away from you, and bring them into battle and war, and send them back to bury them. And it is kings who will tax you so they can build strong cities and strong walls and armaments, things of war as well.”
But God must have known that He created them free. And He had to respect their choice. Because their choice was to have a king, He allowed them to have a king.
So it was that Samuel, the last of the judges, anointed King Saul as the first king of Israel.
Well they had about 20 kings in their history and it turned out just as God had said. None of them were worth anything. Perhaps David was one. And so they looked upon David as the fabled king, the King Arthur of their people, the one who was fair and just. And God had promised David that out of his line, He would send a king. And the Messiah would be born from the line of David.
But for the rest of them, they did just as God had warned them. They had spent their money and time and _____ on warfare. And they ended up in Babylon as prisoners, their freedom taken from them, their young __ all dead in the terrible wars of destruction. And they thought that they had lost everything.
Then the prophet Ezekiel, with the anger of God in his voice, spoke for God in the first reading. And instead of abandoning his people, he said to them:
Tell my people:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.
As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD,
I will judge between one sheep and another,
between rams and goats.
This is the Word of the Lord.
And so the Israelites expected a shepherd. And He came. The shepherd, the long announced one who was prayed for through the centuries. The shepherd was Jesus and He said, “I am the good shepherd. And I have come from the Father”.
And how did He come? How did He come to take possession of his kingdom? How did He become the ultimate authority with power over nations?
Certainly not the way they expected.
For He was born in a poor little village, Bethlehem. He was born in a stable made only for animals’ shelter. He lived simply. He lived purely. He lived graciously, as He went among His people. And they hardly knew that the Messiah was with them. That the Messiah had finally arrived.
They did not recognize Him because they were looking for a king of power and strength; who would take vengeance on those who had _______. They didn’t expect a man who would take as His throne a cross. And take as His golden crown, a crown of thorns. And who would be meek and humble. And to the very end give every last drop of His own blood, that they might find that they had finally, finally, come upon the true King.
It seems like a great contradiction. And even to this day, if you were to say that we must adopt Jesus as a king, we would say, “Well, maybe. But it’s also good to have armies and soldiers and men willing once again to die for us, that we might be free, and that we might be safe, and that we might etc etc.”
And yet on the Feast of Christ the King, we celebrate something that is even harder for us, even more difficult for us to understand than seeing Jesus on the cross. Because we say what is the power? Where is the conviction? Where is the stability that our kings would offer us so the Israelites would be for ages and ages.
And God will say to them, “The only authority that I have created, the only worthwhile authority in the lands of the peoples and the nations that are mine, is the authority of love.
And the only way to express love is by giving and not taking. It is by becoming as Jesus was: strong and firm, wonderful, in the sense that He was filled with the wonder of God Himself.
But at the same time He knew that the lesson had to be learned by everyone before the realization of what kingship means. For there is no authority outside love, and there could be no love without authority.
And so today as we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, we are called to work with this King. And this King is the one who dies on the cross, rises from the dead, is with His people.
And what then is expected of us?
I would like to close this with a message from Mother Teresa. And it tells us what real authority is. And what we, as followers of Jesus, should follow in the authority of love. What we ourselves should become if we are forever to touch the kingdom of God. Because God is love, and unless we learn to love as Jesus loves, we will never touch God.
Here is what Mother Teresa says:
“Many today are starving for ordinary bread.
But there is another kind of hunger –
the hunger to be wanted, the hunger to be loved, the hunger to be recognised.
Nakedness too is not just the want of clothes,
but also about loss of dignity, purity, and self-respect.
And homelessness is not just want of a house;
there is the homelessness of being rejected,
of being unwanted in a throwaway society.
The biggest disease in the world today
is the feeling of being unwanted and uncared for.
The greatest evil in the world is lack of love,
the terrible indifference towards one’s neighbour.”’
Lord, warm our cold hearts with your grace,
so that we your disciples may produce the fruits of love
as you have taught us and with this love we shall overcome the world.”
Christ The King
In this beautiful homily for the Feast of Christ the King, Year A, Father Hanly looks at the importance of the great Feast of Christ the King.
First Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 23:1-2, 2-3, 5, 6
Second Reading: First Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
Kings are not in fashion these days. When I was young, the storybooks were full of kings and queens and all the kind of excitement that goes, maybe, perhaps, in the old days when kings ruled the world in so many ways.
But these days, kings are only symbols, symbols of unity perhaps, very important, symbols of the past and the history, the continuity moving into the future. And so they have a role, but it’s very minor. And it’s like the tiger that is toothless. It doesn’t have the kind of power that people sought, for those who aspired to be kings in the old days.
Perhaps a lot of it goes back to the times of the French Revolution, when throughout Europe there was this feeling that somehow the kings had lost their right to rule and there was a great tumult through all the countries.
And before this took place, there’s a story of two men. They were in Paris and they were watching the King of France alighting from his golden chariot, full of courtiers and people bowing and scraping, everybody wearing beautiful clothing. And one of the men said, “I live to see the day when royalty is treated like commoners.” And his friend smiled and he said, “I live to see the day when commoners are treated like royalty.” It was that kind of a situation at the time.
Of course, then the whole world changed. There was great, what we thought would be a wonderful, new world turned out to be even worse than the one that they were trying to change.
What happened then, of course, was that Pius, Pope Pius XI, was reigning as Pope, and that was after the First World War. It began with one Pope dying of a broken heart when the war started. And then Pius XI was the one who became Pope at the conclusion of it. And he was the one who started Christ the King, the ceremony.
And some people felt, “Why would he do that?” But Pius XI was a very, very tough guy and he knew the people he was dealing with and he wanted to show them what a real king is and what a real king should be.
So he deliberately said that we will celebrate Christ as the King, not building him up as if he was a superman, but presenting a man, beaten and mocked and crowned with thorns, with a bleeding side, people making fun of him. This was the King that he presented. It was Jesus on a throne, Jesus crowned, and Jesus was the one who came to heal us and save us.
And then you say, “How could God let this happen? How could it happen?”
And then, probably, we’re supposed to ask Jesus, “How could it happen?”
And Jesus will say, “I only do my Father’s will.”
And then if you ask God, “Why did you allow this terrible thing? We human beings rose up as one terrible voice and destroyed the lovely Saviour of the world. And for no reason. It was as empty as the First World War, thousands killed and smashed, and for no reason that anybody to this day can think of was even worth the trip.
Guardini, Romano Guardini, was a very fine theologian, an Italian German, and when they asked him, “How could this happen, that God would allow His Son, who He sent to save us and redeem us, allow this to happen to him?” And he would shrug his shoulders and he’d say, “Love does such things. Only love does such things.”
And Simone Weil, a very famous little mystical girl who died in the Second World War, who fell in love with Jesus, her comment was: “When I look up onto the bloody cross and see him bleeding and dying for me, I say to myself, now he understands.”
He understands that the world is not full of jolly little kings hopping around and feeling important and throwing big parties and all this nonsense. He understands that so many people go to bed hungry, that so many people are born just to die neglected. We must remember that we belong to a world where over half the children go to bed hungry and many of them die.
What can we even think about in terms of what are we expected to do? Well now, of course, a man on the cross who says to his Father, “Forgive them, they know not what they do,” and lays his life down only for one reason, out of love. And God the Father, out of love all of this is done.
Because only love can save us.
But it’s not the love where “love me today, forget me tomorrow.” It is the only love that God knows, because God only knows how to love by giving, self-sacrifice. God does not say, “If you don’t love me, I’m going to punish you.” God loves and loves and never stops loving, no matter how bad it is.
And how do we know that?
If God Himself didn’t send His Son to become man, be one with us and suffer all things that we go through and even more and yet look up at his Father and say, “Love them.” Forgiveness: the only words we want to hear in a world so desolate and hungry for love, hungry for the love of God and for each other.
So that is what makes today an extremely important feast for us.
At the end of the church year, we are presented with the solution.
A broken body on the cross?
Of course not.
The solution of a God who lays his life down out of love. And he says to us in this gesture, “Now turn to each other, turn to each other and love as Jesus loved, care as Jesus cared. Go the extra step as Jesus always did. Laugh when people are happy, weep with them when people are sad.”
This is the one and the only way that this world will understand that it is God who is changing it.
But He’s not going to change it by massive armies winning arguments, fighting back and forth. He’s not going to end it by competition and all the kind of things that we pretend are going to lead to joy and happiness and only end up in futility.
The only way that it’s going to be the world that God created, that God conceived and created and still works in and never tires, because He believes in us, because He loves us and He cares for us, is when we finally wake up and say, “I’ve run out of everything else. The only thing left is to love people. And if I don’t love people there’s no point in life itself.”
And I think that is what makes today a great feast.
And Pius XI knew that. He knew that the (inaudible) covered with blood and pain all through that last terrible century that they all endured, that out of that will come a continued movement towards forgiveness, towards caring, towards loving, towards self-sacrifice, until we finally get it right, as they say.
Get it right. How often must it happen before we get it right?
And God has promised us one thing: “I cannot tell you how long it will take, I cannot give you any hope except one: I will be with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.
“I have created you for greatness and great you shall be. I have created you to use your time and attention to learn how to love, because, in the learning how to love, you are healed and you are saved.”
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Information about Father Hanly’s homilies for Christ the King, Year A
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If you would like to use our transcripts of either of these sermons (updated 2019), please contact us for permission.
Father Hanly's sermon for Christ the King, Year A, "Christ Our King" was delivered on 23rd November 2008. Father Hanly's sermon for Christ the King, Year A, "Christ The King" was delivered on 20th November 2011. It is sometimes hard to accurately transcribe Father Hanly's reflections, so please let us know if you think we have made a mistake in any of our transcripts, and let us have your suggestions.
We hope that Father Hanly’s homilies, always kind, always wise, always full of love, will restore you to peace and harmony through a new understanding of what is important in this world. We believe these homilies are inspiring for everyone, not only for Roman Catholics or other Christians.