Deacon Cornell Homily


Daniel 7:13-14
Revelation 1:5-8
John 18:33b-37


November 25-26, 2000, Christ the King, Cycle B

A man and his wife were at the doctor's office. He had been experiencing a lot of chest pain and other symptoms of heart problems. After a lengthy exam, the doctor came out with him, and asked to see the wife in private. The doctor told the wife that her husband had a serious heart problem but that they couldn't operate. He told her that any stress might kill her husband so from now on she would have to do everything to insulate him from stress. She should not argue with him or nag him. She should give him anything he wanted, and she should allow him to relax and watch his favorite shows. He emphasized that if she didn't do all this, her husband was in great danger.

On the way home, the man turned to his wife, and asked her what the doctor had said. The woman slowly shook her head and replied, "He said you are going to die."

"This is why I came into the world: to testify to the truth." If we ever needed a lesson in how hard it is to discern the truth, we have had it in the election crisis these past few weeks, haven't we? It is so important to work at getting to the truth, especially when there are so many agendas that bend it and twist it. And then once we come face to face with the truth, it calls us to a response. Truth never just calls for an acknowledgement. It always calls us to action. That action can testify to the truth or it can deny the truth.

Pilate saw the truth that Jesus was innocent. But he refused to testify to that truth; that would have been too difficult for Pilate to do. So he denied it by handing Jesus over to be killed.

Today's readings reveal a truth that demands as costly a response as it did from Pilate. In the first reading from Daniel, the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven is a symbol, not of God or of Jesus, but of Israel, God's chosen nation. The truth revealed in this reading is that Christ the King is not just Jesus who is the head of Christ, but we too are part of Christ the King. We too have a role to play in this dominion over creation. Early Christians saw this Son of Man passage as a symbol of Jesus alone, assuming that before their generation passed away, Jesus would come back to conquer evil in some magnificent battle. Especially when the turmoil of the Roman persecutions and the destruction of Jerusalem looked like the end of the world to them, they looked to God to magically free them from that pain and suffering.

But the truth is that Jesus came as the first fruits, not the whole harvest. The coming of the kingdom is not just in Jesus' human hands. He has placed it firmly in ours, the kings and priests and prophets into which we are formed by baptism. He is the model of what we are to be as kings. And while we are certainly called to this kingship as individuals, primarily we are called to it as a community. So I would ask you to think about this from the point of view of the parish community rather than as individuals.

Who can tell me what the sign at the top of the crucifix means (INRI)?

Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Pilate had that title posted in the three languages of the day (Latin, Greek, Aramaic) over Jesus' head to mock him, because he did not see the truth that Jesus is king. Does Jesus look like a king? Not if we look for society's definition of a king. But he is the kind of king that is needed to bring about this kingdom in all creation, a king who goes to any length to care for his people. See, when Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world, he didn't mean it was in heaven. He meant that Pilate had nothing to fear in terms of a political or military uprising. Jesus' kingdom is definitely about this here and now. That is what he proclaimed throughout his life, "The kingdom of God is at hand." It is what we pray for in a few minutes in the Our Father when we say, "Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven." It will come when we who are kings by baptism start acting like that king on the cross.

We just celebrated Thanksgiving and I hope every one thanked God for all the wonderful things we have. But now it is time to face the truth. Everything we have is given to us to use for the kingdom. In the midst of all this prosperity why is it that so many are unable to make ends meet. It is easy to believe the myths: people on welfare or homeless are lazy or shiftless. They should just get a job. But the truth is that many homeless people have jobs, over 40% of the homeless are children, 25% are mentally ill.

The truth is that unless we start to look at the root causes of why all this is happening at the same time we are selling 500 or 600 thousand dollar homes faster than we can build them, it will get worse. How do we respond to the truth of this poverty in the midst of plenty? Do we act like the kind of king Jesus models for us, or do we just shake our heads and say, "They said you are going to die?"

Myths & Facts about Homelessness
(Source: National Coalition for the Homeless, 1998)

Myth #1: In today" booming economy, anyone can get a job. Homeless people just don't want to work. Fact: According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors 1997 survey of 29 cities, almost one in five homeless persons are employed in full or part-time jobs.

Myth #2: Homeless people are all crazy or drunk. That's why they"re homeless. Fact: Only 20-25% of the single adult homeless population suffers from severe mental illness. These rates apply only to single adults, not to families with children, who represent approximately 40% of those who become homeless nationally.

Myth #3: There are plenty of shelters and services for homeless people. People on the streets don't want help. Fact: In most cities, there are far more people in need of shelter than available shelter beds. In Los Angeles, there are 5-8 homeless persons for every available shelter bed.

Myth #4:America's generous welfare policies and extensive safety net prevent children from becoming homeless. Fact: Declining welfare benefits and housing assistance have contributed to record numbers of children who experience homelessness in the U.S. One in five American children lives in poverty - twice the poverty rate of any other age group.

Myth #5: Homeless an urban phenomenon. It is very rare in rural areas and the suburbs. Fact: A 1994 national study found the incidence of homelessness to be the same in rural and urban area. Almost one quarter of rural residents pay more than 30%of their incomes for housing, leaving them with less money left over for other expenses and putting them at increased risk of homelessness.