Homily, 26 November 2017
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The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the UniverseReadings: Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17; Psalms 23:1-2,2-3,5-6; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26,28; Matthew 25:31-46* * *In his book, The Holy Longing, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser recounts the following story:“A four-year-old child awoke one night frightened, convinced that in the darkness around her there were all kinds of spooks and monsters. Alone, she ran to her parents’ bedroom. Her mother calmed her down and, taking her by the hand, led her back to her own room, where she put on a light and reassured the child with these words: ‘You needn’t be afraid, you are not alone here. God is in the room with you.’ The child replied ‘I know that God is here, but I need someone in this room who has some skin.’”Fr. Rolheiser used this story to talk about the incarnation, to talk about why God took flesh and dwelt among us.Pope Benedict, in his first encyclical, made a similar point, though in very different words: “Being Christian,” wrote Pope Benedict, “is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”That’s why, as followers of Christ, we need to have a personal relationship with Jesus. But what kind of personal relationship should we have with him?* * *When you hear that phrase “a personal relationship with Christ,” what comes to mind? I think what comes to mind for many people, is a close, casual, and even intimate kind of friendship, like the relationship between best friends or even spouses.Yet that may be perhaps the most difficult kind of personal relationship to establish. If you don’t seem to have that kind of relationship with Jesus, it can be very discouraging. If I can borrow from Fr. Rolheiser’s story: many of us “need someone in room who has some skin” in order to develop that sort of personal relationship.But there are many kinds of personal relationships. We all have relationships with other people, which are personal, which may develop into a kind of friendship, but which we wouldn’t necessarily describe that way.* * *When I was a little boy, my younger brother and I would spend many Saturday mornings at our Aunt June’s house. In the days before ubiquitous daycare, it gave my mom a chance to get some chores and errands done. Aunt June was a spinster school teacher. We used to play in her living room while she graded papers. Then we would sit and talk over lunch. Over the years I grew to appreciate my Aunt’s wisdom and insight. I loved my Aunt, and I respected her.Once, when I around eighteen years old, I recall a conversation with my older brother that I think captures my relationship with my Aunt. I had an important decision to make, one that I wasn’t sure my parents would support. So I asked my brother about it. He said to me, “Have you talked with Aunt June about it?” “Yes,” I said, “she thinks it’s a good idea.” “Ahh,” said my brother, “then you’re okay. If Aunt June didn’t approve, then you’d know you were making the wrong decision.”Was my Aunt my friend? In a way … although that’s not how I would describe our relationship. Aunt June was a woman I admired, respected, and loved. And she loved me -- and the worst thing I could have done to our relationship was to disappoint her.How would I describe our relationship? She was my Aunt and I was her nephew -- and that was all that mattered, even if that doesn’t describe to others the depth of my love for her.* * *This Sunday is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. A good reminder that Jesus is God, the second person of the Trinity, who became man for our sake. He is described in today’s readings as a shepherd and as a king.Can you have a personal relationship with such a man? Of course.St. Thomas the apostle was a friend of Jesus. Yet when Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection, showed him his wounds, and said to him “do not be unbelieving, but believe,” Thomas said in reply “My Lord and my God.”When St Paul wrote to Corinthians, reminding them of the work that he and Timothy had done among them, he said: “... we are ambassadors for Christ …”.An ambassador, a servant, a believer, a disciple. This is how Paul and Thomas thought of their relationship to Jesus. But they also loved him … and their relationship to him was personal indeed! * * *Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.Of all the images of Christ, that is perhaps the very last one that comes to mind when you think of a personal relationship with Christ.Yet we all have personal relationships with people in authority, or with those who deserve our respect because of positions.Think of beloved a teacher or a coach, think of the supervisor who you admired, or if you were in the military, the commanding officer. Think of the grandfather who seemed so wise, or even a beloved aunt.These are people we come to know, to love, and to admire. We develop personal relationships with them, yet friends might not be the best way to describe them. Yet like a good friend, the last thing we would want to do is to disappoint them, to let them down.Now think of Christ the King, who loves you and desires only what is good for you -- who gave his life for you. How could you disappoint him?Last Sunday, we heard Jesus tell the “Parable of the Talents,” about a man’s relationship with three of his servants.To the first servant, who had done well with the treasures with which he was entrusted, the master said “Well done, my good and faithful servant. … Come, share your master's joy.”If you long to hear those words from Christ your king, and try to live your life accordingly, then I think you already have a have personal relationship with Christ.