Homily for Christ the King
November 26, 2017
Obedience to the King
Mother Teresa decided to become a nun when she was eighteen years old. She wrote a letter to her older brother, who was studying at a military college in Albania, explaining her decision to give her life to the Lord. Her brother was not impressed with her vocation – he wrote back, telling her, “You’re wasting your life! Why not get a regular job and do something with your life? Look at me – I will soon have an excellent job in the government when I am finished with my college!”
Mother Teresa wrote back and said, “Yes, it is excellent that you will have a job serving a King who has two million subjects. But it is infinitely more valuable for me to serve the King of the entire universe!” She knew that Jesus Christ was King – and serving Him was worth everything.
But recognizing someone as king means that we are his subject. And subjects must do something that we as Americans don’t like to do – we have to obey.
We don’t like that word, “obedience”. We’d rather be masters of our own destiny. There is a humorous story of a wealthy woman who said to her parish priest, rather haughtily, “Oh, Father, I really do want to serve the Lord.” The priest responded, “Yes, but you only want to serve Him in an advisory capacity!” We’d like to say, “Jesus, I love You, but don’t tell me what to do!” Or one I hear a lot, “I’m Catholic, but I don’t believe in the Church’s views on…” Fill in the blanks – birth control, gay marriage, the death penalty, immigration.
But if Jesus Christ is King, then we owe Him our obedience. How do we know what He commands? He has revealed it to us in the Scriptures, and in His Church which He established to teach in His Name. And some of the things He commands us to do are difficult! Take up your cross and follow Him… If you look at a woman with lust, you commit adultery with her… It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into Heaven… Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you… Divorce and remarriage without an annulment is equal to adultery in the eyes of God. Some of His commands are difficult, and we’d rather pick-and-choose which ones we obey. But true obedience, true submission to the King means that we obey not only the convenient ones but also the ones we don’t like, that we don’t agree with, that we find difficult and sacrificial.
Today’s Gospel offers us similarly difficult commands. He tells us that whatever we do for the least ones, we do for Him. Yes, it’s easy enough to write a check to a charity, but to see Christ in that difficult in-law or co-worker? To treat that weird kid who sits alone as Christ? A little bit more difficult, and we might be tempted to make excuses. “Jesus, I can’t treat my mother-in-law like I would treat You; after all, don’t you know how difficult she is? She’s the one who is always starting fights and she gets insulted over nothing!” And Jesus will say, “Will you obey me, or will you not? Whatever you do to your mother-in-law, you do to Me.”
Obedience is the key to recognizing Christ as King. Not only must we obey what He says in the Scriptures, but also what He says through His Church, which makes present His teachings in the world today. But the good news is that His laws are for our benefit – to help us live peaceful, ordered lives of holiness.
Consider this. One of my greatest pet peeves is people who don’t know how to understand four-way stops. You’ve probably had the experience – you arrive at a four-way stop and someone else is there, and it’s his turn to go but he keeps motioning for you to go. So you start going, but then he realizes he has right of way, so he starts, and then you slam on your brakes, and he slams on his, and the whole thing becomes a big mess and a big confusion. Driving laws are written so that traffic flows smoothly.
Likewise, God’s laws are given to us so that we find peace and order. His laws are not arbitrary! They help us to become excellent Christians and excellent human beings. No matter how difficult one of Christ’s laws are, they are for our benefit. For example, it is difficult to turn the other cheek when someone insults us, as Christ commands us to do. But in forgiving our enemies and overlooking their insults, we foster peace within the community. We ourselves become more peaceful people, rather than angrily retaliating. We grow in self-control and humility. Yes, it can be difficult, but His laws are for our benefit and ultimately our salvation.
My friends, we cannot say that Jesus Christ is King if we are not willing to obey everything that He has revealed through the Scriptures and through His Church. But our obedience to Jesus as King is not a servile obedience out of fear, but an obedience of love. Our obedience is what shows that Jesus Christ is King over our entire lives.