HOMILY WEEK 34 05 – Year I
Serving Jesus our King and Obeying His Word
(Dan 7:1-14; Dan 3:75-81; Lk 21:29-33)
Did you know that Prince Harry is 5th in line to the throne? Someday he might be king of England and Meghan would be queen! Perhaps not that surprising as apparently, according to some media, she is a 17th cousin to Harry!
Much more important than this possibility is that Jesus is our King, his word is our guide, and we are to live in his kingdom, serving him with humility, peace, joy and love.
In the first reading, Daniel shares with us an amazing vision of the kingdom of heaven where evil is being destroyed, and Jesus is presented to the Father. Taking a bit of liberty with the text, I think the four beasts Daniel sees refer to the four goods of this world which, when substituted for God and to which people over-attach themselves, become the four false gods of possessions, prestige, pleasure and power. As in the passage itself, I think power is the most common and terrifying one, “devouring, breaking into pieces, and stamping what was left with its feet.” Is it not true that in our society and world, the lust for power in so many countries leads to oppression, injustice, suffering and misery, especially for the poor and voiceless?
Thankfully, the vision ends with God as the Ancient One taking his throne, destroying the beast of “power run-riot,” taking dominion away from the others, and handing all dominion, glory, power and kingship to Jesus, the “one like a human being,” the just one, whose dominion and kingdom will “not pass away and never be destroyed.”
In the Gospel, Jesus, speaking to his disciples about the end of time, teaches them to be ready, to read the signs of the time, for the kingdom of God, his eternal kingdom, is near. We could say it is “near and here” because in the gospel of Luke (17:21), Jesus teaches his disciples that the kingdom of God is already within and among them.
This passage became my motto as a bishop – Regnum Dei Intra Vos – “The Kingdom of God is among you.” That is called realized eschatology – the kingdom that will someday come in its fullness is already present, inaugurated by Jesus himself through his life, passion, death, resurrection and the sending of the Spirit upon his followers at Pentecost.
Given that the kingdom of God is what Jesus preached about the most, is what was closest to his heart, and is what he came to inaugurate here on earth, should we not be much more attentive to it than we are? It should be our main concern, and living within that kingdom our greatest goal.
The scriptures reveal four key elements of that kingdom: peace, joy, love and humility. In Romans 14:17, St. Paul tells us that the reign of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but the peace, joy and justice of the Holy Spirit. Peace is not a passing emotion like happiness, but rather a gift of the Holy Spirit that we can claim no matter what is transpiring in our lives. Jesus on the cross was totally at peace, even if he was experiencing the “apparent absence” of God, because he knew he was doing the Father’s will to reveal to all humanity the depth of the Father’s love for us.
Joy is also much more than a passing emotion like pleasure. It too is a gift of the Holy Spirit that we can claim, again no matter what is going on in our complicated lives. I suspect that on the cross, Jesus even experienced a glimpse of joy, because he was doing the Father’s will, redeeming, forgiving, loving the world unconditionally, and joy always flows out of unconditional love.
When St Paul says that justice is also an element of the kingdom, he is talking about genuine, sincere, selfless, agape love that seeks to work for justice, fairness, truth, beauty and goodness. Jesus, of course, is the prime example of that kind of love with the selfless sacrifice of his life on the cross. At the same time, from his birth among us as a little child, his life of simplicity and service, and his death on the cross, totally powerless, Jesus modelled for us the humility that is the key to experiencing the power of God working in our lives, redeeming and sanctifying, forgiving and healing.
In the end, the best way to experience that joy at the core of the kingdom of God is to humbly work for peace and justice in our world through selfless love and service. Here we see these four core elements of the kingdom of God come together: peace, joy, love and humility.
The last line of this gospel passage today is important and significant, as Jesus tell us, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” That is rather astounding – the words of Jesus trump even heaven and earth! This echoes his teaching elsewhere as he places himself above the Torah, which was the supreme authority for the Jewish religious leaders – “You have heard it said .. but I tell you..” (Matthew 5:17-48).
We need to give greater credence to this statement and put much more effort into paying attention to the words of Jesus, venerating his words, praying with the scriptures, spending time with Jesus by pondering his words, as did Mary, who “treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
The best way to do that would be to practice Lectio Divina, an ancient way of praying with the Word of God consisting of four stages: Lectio (reading a passage prayerfully), Meditatio (thinking about the words and asking one’s self what God is saying to us through those words), Oratio (an intimate conversation with Jesus about the passage and prayer for one’s needs and the needs of the world) and finally, Contemplatio (putting all thoughts and feelings aside and just being present to the Trinity, soaking up God’s unconditional love like a trusting child falling asleep on a parent’s chest).
The Eucharist is already a participation in the eternal life that awaits us in the fullness of God’s kingdom. We listen to God’s word, receive the body and blood of Jesus, and are forgiven and healed even as we celebrate.
May our celebration deepen our faith in Jesus our King, help us let go of false gods, deepen our love for his word, and humbly live in his peaceful kingdom filled with that joy that flows out of loving others as he has loved us.