Deacon Cornellís Homily


2 Samuel 5:1-3
Colossians 1:12-20
Luke 23:35-43


November 23-24, 2019, Christ the King, Cycle C

There is the old story about this guy named Bob who goes mountain climbing. Unfortunately he trips and falls off the edge of a very high cliff. As he is falling to certain death, he manages to grab onto the only tree growing out of the side of the cliff about 100 feet below the top. He hangs there, yelling at the top of his lungs for someone to help him. After a while he realizes that no one is around so he starts to pray. "God, I don't know if you really exist. I've never been much of a religious person but if you save me, I will put all my belief and trust in you for the rest of my life." He prays like this for a pretty long time as his arms get more and more tired. Just as he is nearing the end of his strength, he hears a voice: "Bob!" "Who's there?" he says. "This is God". Bob replies, "Oh God, thank you for answering my prayer. I'll never doubt you again. Save me". "I can't save you unless you put all your trust in me." Bob frantically replies, "I trust you; I trust you". God says to Bob, "Let go of the branch with your left hand." Bob lets go and says, "See I trust you. Please save me." Then God says, "Now let go of the branch with your right hand." Long silence. All of a sudden Bob starts yelling, "Is there anyone else up there?"

The whole concept of kingship is hard to understand, especially for us Americans. A real king is someone in whom we put our whole trust. In so doing, we also put ourselves at the king's mercy. Our life is in the king's hands. It is the fundamental "quid pro quo": the king gives us protection and food and shelter and we give our lives to the king. The American system of government is designed to prevent us from ever putting our lives and welfare in the hands of a king. But there is something in human nature that continues to make us long for a king.

Our first reading from the 2 Book of Samuel is a story from a time in the Israelite's history when they most strongly felt this urge. For 300 years or so after the Exodus, they had lived with only the Lord God as their king. But then they started to succumb to the urge and crowned Saul, despite the warning that Samuel gave them about trying to replace God with a human king Saul didn't work out as well as he could have so now it is David's turn. After many years of running away from Saul's army, made up of people from the Northern tribes of Israel, David is now being called flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone. Talk about politics as usual! But David, for all his anointing by God and popular support of the people cannot satisfy them for long. Not that David was without blame; God refuses to let him build the temple because his reign was so stained with bloodshed.

You see, we do need a king in our lives. St. Augustine puts it this way:

You made us for yourself, O Lord, and we are restless until we rest in Thee.

But original sin keeps blinding us to the fact that there is only one king who can satisfy that need. Like Bob in the story, we keep thinking that there must be an easier, more conventional king we can put our trust in. And like the Israelites who just had to have a human king, who was flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone, we keep looking around for someone else to be there.

When we crown anyone but Christ as king in our lives, we set ourselves up for disappointment. The problem with human created kings is that they have no life of their own so they must take their life and power from their subjects.

The ancients recognized this truth and tried to feed life to their kings, who were often considered to be gods, by offering sacrifice of human life (not theirs of course but some young virgin or slave or captured enemy) or animal life. Kings throughout the ages have had to constantly conquer new areas to feed on the lives of the captured people or their resources to stay alive. Today the kings we create and give allegiance to suck us dry. As we enter our culture's idea of the Christmas season, we are reminded that the king of consumerism lies that it is giving us the one thing that will make us happy, or fulfilled. But the truth is, as soon as we have that one thing, it lies that it really is something else that we need to buy. It doesn't matter how much we have bought in the past, the only thing important to the king of consumerism is what we will buy next. And so it sucks us dry. This is true of whether our false king or god is a government, or an ideology, or a relationship, or even a Church. The only true king is God. God does not need anything from us to stay alive, so God does not suck us dry.

But the only king who can satisfy us perfectly is flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. Today's feast reminds us that In Jesus we have a king who is flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, as well as one who is also the "image of the invisible God, the first born of all creatures". He is the one in whom everything in the universe was created. And it is he in whom it pleases God to make absolute fullness reside and by whom it pleases God to reconcile everything to God's self. And if we still doubt that we should take both hands off the tree and make Christ our king, we have this Lucan story of our king as he truly is. This first born of all creatures living and dead, the beginning, the end of all creation, hangs dying a miserable, humiliating, excruciatingly painful death on a cross between two criminals and what does he do? He looks around for someone who needs comfort and help. And so one thief takes both hands off the tree and crowns Christ king in his life. The other hangs there with both hands, yelling, "Is there anyone else up there?"

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