Guest HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST THE KING,
Nov. 21, 2010:
By: Fr. Tom Washburn, OFM,
Boston, MA, Franciscan Friar, Roman Catholic Priest and Vocation Director of my Franciscan Province of the Immaculate Conception.
Anyone who subscribes to the Catholic Digest knows that every issue usually contains a story or two describing how someone became a Catholic or returned to the practice of the faith. There was one story not too long ago about a young man who grew up in a strong Catholic family and had been very active in his church during his young years. So strong in faith was he, that he eventually entered the seminary to study for the priesthood. But, then came the turmoil of the Vietnam years, college protests, race riots, the resignation of the president. Suddenly, everything seemed unglued. The young man left the seminary, joined the antiwar movement, left the Church and began to ridicule the faith he once so proudly proclaimed. His family was shocked by his change, and when his behavior became more and more hostile towards religion and the Church, they all but gave up hope.
Then came Holy Week and Good Friday in 1974. The young man, now 22 years old, was driving past a Catholic Church. He recognized the name of the priest on the sign in front of the Church. It was a priest he had once respected very much. Something prompted him to stop his car and go inside the Church. As he walked through the door, the Good Friday adoration of the Cross was beginning. He sat down in the very last pew and watched the people file up to the front of the Church to reverence the Cross while the choir sang, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
Then something remarkable happened. The young man wrote, “Something inside me snapped and I began to cry. Overcome with emotion, I remembered the peace I had felt years ago in Church. The simple faith I was witnessing now seemed more meaningful to me than what I had been professing. I got out of my seat and went down to kiss the Cross. The priest recognized me, came over, and hugged me. On that day, I became a born-again Catholic.”
I like that story because it fits so perfectly with the readings for today’s Solemnity of Christ the King. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Our Gospel passage today from Luke describes another angry, irreligious young man whose life was completely turned around on the very first Good Friday more than 2,000 years ago.
And what turned that young man’s life around was the same thing that turned the life of the young seminarian around. It was the crucifixion of Jesus; the crucifixion of Christ our King. And what the crucified Christ said to the young man on the cross next to Him, he also said to the young seminarian: “Amen, I say to you. You will be with me in Paradise.”
There could hardly be a more appropriate reading to bring our Church year to a close today. It summarizes why Jesus came into the world. It was to forgive sinners, like the young criminal next to Him, like the young seminarian 30 years ago. And, what Jesus did for those two young men, he also wants to do for each of us. He wants to forgive our sins, no matter how great they are or how long-standing they may be. He wants to say to us what he said to the good thief, “You will be with me in Paradise.”
This is the good news contained so simply in today’s Scripture: Jesus wants to enter our lives and do for us what he did for them. St. Paul expresses that good news in this way in the second reading today, God “delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
This is the heart of what we have celebrated for the past 52 Sundays of our Church year – that we say continually to Jesus, “Remember me,” and He responds to us, “You will be with me in Paradise.” These words sum up and celebrate this past year of grace and growth, this year of joys and sorrows, this year of pain and gain. Let us make these words our daily prayer as we head into the new Church year ahead. Let us begin each day saying, “Jesus, remember me,” and “Today, you will be with me.”
May God give you peace