My friends, with today’s feast; we come to the official end of our Church Year, 2018. I think it is significant that the official Church Year runs to its own beat, not keeping time with the calendar year, January 1—December 31, or the fiscal year for some businesses, October 1—September 30, but to its own tune—the First Sunday in Advent, usually the last Sunday in November or the first in December through its end with today’s feast.
Our model, Jesus, our brother was counter-culture from the beginning so it is appropriate that the yearly reminder and renewal of his life among us wound be counter-culture too. Unfortunately, in many respects, that counter-culture aspect often ends here. What do I mean? Let’s start with the official name of this feast, “The Solemnity of Christ the King.” By careful look at today’s gospel from John; we see that the title of “king” was not something that Jesus aspired to, but something Pilate gave to him. Jesus’ response to Pilate’s question, “So, you are a king?” is, “You say that I am a king.” Jesus goes on to say that what he is about is, “truth”—that is why he came!
And friends, we know that the “truth” is about God loving us so much so as to become one of us. Paul states in Philippians 2, “His state was divine, yet he did not cling to that, but humbled himself and became like humans are.”
So if that was God’s intent, to be one of us and with us, why did the Church inaugurate this feast that really removes Jesus, putting him on a pedestal away from us, rather than with us?
Upon checking; we see that this feast is only a little less than a hundred years old being proclaimed by Pius XI in 1925. It was a time in our Catholic history when Church fathers feared that God wasn’t being given due respect, so it seemed to them appropriate to inaugurate such a feast. Too bad they didn’t look back to Jesus’ words to see what God truly wanted from and with humans—not a top-down relationship, king to subjects, but a “one-with” relationship, friend to friend. So, it is for that reason that I suggest the name of this feast be changed to Jesus, Our Brother and Friend.
When we pick up on the discussion between Jesus and Pilate in today’s gospel and realize that Jesus isn’t about being a “king” and claiming an earthly crown, but about sharing the “truth” with us humans that we are loved by our God, nothing more, nothing less, than we can come to the truth that this feast is all wrong!
In truth, this proclaimed feast is really more about whom we as humans are—concerned with power, than whom our God is. Further, and more distinctly, this reflects who Church Fathers are more than who God is!
If we are looking for real answers to the problems in our Church today, we would have to name clericalism among our clergy as a significant part of the problems—the notion that they are better than the people they serve—that they must be listened to and obeyed with no discussion among the people into the most serious and vital notions of our faith.
The Diocese of Winona/Rochester has filed for bankruptcy this past week as you all know. The bishop has stated that this is being done for the victims of clergy sex abuse so that they can be adequately compensated for the abuse they received at the hands of those who were ordained to serve them. At face value, this may seem like a good step, but we must remember that it is being taken now only because they are being forced into it. Where was this concern 10 years ago when John Quinn was first made bishop of Winona? At that time he would have been made aware of the cover-up and passing on of abusive priests in this diocese. Where was the concern then?
Clericalism is the reason that these crimes have been covered up for so long because clericalism sees controlling the power of the Church, held by so-called celibate men more important than the safety of its children. Until these same clerics, and for us, Bishop John Quinn can tell us that he has walked away from this powerful tool to control his subjects, it does not matter how many programs he puts in place to protect the children, the abuse will continue because there are no checks and balances.
This bishop and all bishops need to have listening sessions and truly hear the concerns on peoples’ hearts and together and this is important, TOGETHER, come to solutions that will truly protect and care for the most vulnerable among us.
We, as the People of God look forward with hope to the meeting that Pope Francis has called for the bishops of the Catholic world to address this most grievous of crimes. It is the hope of many that he will jump-start real change within our Church. He, at least has named the sin of clericalism and of how these so-called leaders must move away from this distinction—we can only pray that this time, true change can happen!
I find too, many similarities to clericalism as I look at the present administration in Washington. Politics aside; I believe that as citizens of this country that we love, for us to tolerate a president who is apparently above the law, self-protecting, greedy and amoral in his behavior, is clearly wrong. It would be one thing for a person of power, and here I mean in Church or State, to act amorally, but when the fall-out affects others, then it is time that people of conscience speak up. As I have said before, wrong is wrong whether it comes from the common human, the president or the pope. Jesus calls us to no less than to speak the truth as we know it.
Jesus-with-us, Emmanuel, as we will celebrate in a few short weeks calls us to truth, justice, mercy and compassion. Sometimes, to act thusly can bring us upset and fear that we stand alone. At that time, we must remember the messages coming from the 1st and 2nd readings today—basically that Jesus, the Christ, our brother and friend in our humanity is eternal, is forever! Also, that this eternal brother and friend sends us grace and peace through the Spirit of God to do that which we must do.
So friends, as we move toward the beautiful and holy season of Advent beginning next Sunday, let us focus on the One who came to be one-with-us, keeping our eyes on him and receive the strength we need to be his true followers. Amen? Amen!