26 November 2017
Today, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. Kings are not all that popular in today’s democratic world. It is interesting, however, to remember that the term “king” appears at the very first moments of the life of Jesus on earth and at the very last moments of his life. At his birth, the angels announce to the shepherds that a king has been born. On the cross of Jesus is written “Jesus of Nazareth, King”.
How is Jesus king and what does his kingdom mean? The kingship of Jesus is not like an earthly kingship, but it is not outside this world entirely either. Our Gospel reading reminded us where we should look to find the signs of Christ’s kingdom and therefore what the signs of the Church should be.
The Church is not a place where the good gather to feel good or think that they are good. The place where Jesus kingdom is realised is out there where people are hungry and thirsty, where people are treated as strangers or where they feel estranged, where people are without adequate clothing or are out in the cold in the many senses of that term. These are the places where we encounter Jesus and where we are called to bring Jesus.
The history of Christ’s kingdom will only come to its complete fulfilment when the salvation won for us by Jesus on the Cross will be fully realised and when all creation will fully witness to God’s kingdom.
We know well how much there is still to travel before we can say that our world fully mirrors God’s kingdom. We live in a world where there is so much inequality, where children do not have the same opportunities not just in different parts of the world, but even in different parts of this city. We live in a world where there is still corruption and violence. People are exploited in many ways and are trafficked and treated as slaves. We live in a world where, alongside great and demonstrative wealth, many have difficulties in making ends meet. We live in a world where we throw away tons of food each week and where we have children coming to school hungry. Our city and our country have many urgent needs. I appeal this morning to political leaders to place these needs first. Splintering and bickering damage not just politics but damage the service people need.
What is the Church? The Church is a community where the kingdom of God is preached and where we are called to realise that kingdom. The task of Christians is to bring the message of Jesus into the complex situation of the world in which we live, so that the kingdom may be realised in the lives of ourselves and others and in the world around us.
We celebrate the re-opening of this Church building after the disastrous fire. I congratulate Father George Begley, alongside all the priests in this wider pastoral area and all those who over the past months have done everything to restore the Church and improve its facilities. I remember coming over from a bishops in Maynooth meeting at lunchtime the day after the Church had been burnt down. I will never forget the look of desolation on Father George’s face. But even on that day he did not give in to desperation and day after day he worked with dedication until the day on which he had the satisfaction of seeing the Church‘s doors finally re-opened.
Pope Francis likes to speak about “the doors of the Church”. He wants Churches where the doors are open, not just physically. Our Church doors should be open for anyone who wishes to come to pray and to seek support and consolation and to learn the message of Jesus and to encounter the compassion of Jesus.
Church doors should not just be open but should be welcoming. I sometimes feel that we put invisible security checks on some of our Church doors which even though they are open discourage those who might feel that they do not belong from coming near us. I think many young people have this inhibition.
But above all Pope Francis says that the Church doors should also be open so that we go out from Church bringing the message of Jesus Christ with us into daily life. Daily life means what we have heard in the Gospel reading, as I said at the beginning of this homily: the places where people are hungry and thirsty, where people are treated as strangers or where they feel estranged, where people are without adequate clothing or are out in the cold in the many senses of that term.
The history of this parish is above all a history of hard work and of that real decency and good neighbourliness which have changed the lives of many for the good. People care. My hope is that with this building renewed, there will be renewal of the community. Renewal means reaching out to bring Christ’s embrace to those who are on the margins of society through poverty, or through anxiety, or through exclusion or through doubts and uncertainties.
The mission of the Church is a task given not just for priests and deacons and religious, but for every believing Christian. Pope Francis speaks of everyone in the Church being missionary disciples of Jesus. When I speak of renewal I use the term “Working Together for Mission”. It is not just the task of getting parishes to come closer together. It is about an entire community working together: priests and laity, pastoral workers, religious, deacons, married couples. We need to win more young people to be active in Church life and we must welcome them and listen to them. Can I say a special word of thanks this morning to the parish sisters in this part of Dublin. They do great work quietly and often unrecognised.
This morning, as we celebrate the Eucharist, then we look towards the future. Our calling, which challenges us to work for the transformation of the world in which we live, must draw its inspiration from the Eucharist. It is in the celebration of the Eucharist that the kingdom is realised, through the celebration of the life-giving death and resurrection of Jesus. It is in the Eucharist that Jesus prepares us to go out in service so that in our world. Celebrating Eucharist renews our commitment to building a more just and fraternal society, thus anticipating Christ’s kingdom of justice, love and peace, for which all humankind longs. We thank God that this Church has been so beautifully restored. We call God’s blessing on it and above all on this believing community. ENDS
- Further information: Annette O Donnell, Director of Communications, Archdiocese of Dublin 087 8143462