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Solemnity of Christ the King

Practical Kingship

Christ the King is the one who has overcome death through his resurrection as its first fruits, then come all those who belong to him, as we hear in today's second reading from St Paul to the Corinthians. They too have come through death to new life of the Kingdom.

He is the one who has shepherded the weak and the strong, the healthy and the sick. However as shepherd he is also their judge, who will separate the sheep from the goats. This distinction is for those who have lived out the fruits of the resurrection in their daily lives. They already live out the life of the Kingdom of God. They are invited to take their heritage:

For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.

These have been referred to in the tradition of the Church as the corporal works of mercy. In today's world so much of them have become the preserve of institutions and become professionalized. It is now near impossible to work regularly in hospitals or in prisons either as full-time or part-time care workers or as volunteers without going through an extensive selection process.

In some ways this is very good and necessary. However, there is also the everyday opportunity, both in our churches and neighbourhood, to welcome the stranger and to look out for those in different kinds of need and friendship. A kindly listening ear, taking time with those around us, a word of encouragement to those in difficulty.

Getting involved often brings with it a practical responsibility. Sometimes we are tempted to try to 'sort out' and solve the problems of those we encounter. Another temptation is to 'cop out' with easy words to distance ourselves from the difficulties involved. Very often the best approach is to 'stay with' the individual, to hear their story, respecting their independence and dignity and doing what we can to help in a practical way, if possible.

We can also become involved in local and global and Church-inspired activities to work for justice and peace and love, Kingdom values mentioned in the preface of today's Mass. These are allied also to all those who work for truth, life, holiness and grace, all signs and values of God's Kingdom here on earth. There is a place and space for all of us to work for Kingdom values, both through prayer and activity.

We all also need to be on the receiving end of the Kingdom, remembering that Christ the King is coming to us through others, even those we might think are outside the visible Kingdom. This is a valuable thing I have learned through working in ecumenical and multi-faith teams in both prison and hospital chaplaincy, and previously in university chaplaincy, and in the parish. Those we minister to often have much to teach and enrich us in their own way, especially their honesty and openness and even their sense of humour.

Closer to home, our families and friends, so much taken for granted, enrich us with their unfailing support. They too need our attention and love in the corporal works of mercy and in many other ways. One of our parishioners who is also a dear friend constantly reminds me that 'Only your mother could love you!' It is sometimes harder to believe that Jesus loves me.

While we celebrate today Jesus, the eternal priest and universal King, we remember that he offered for us his life on the altar of the cross and redeemed the human race by his one perfect sacrifice of peace.

This is for all and any of us. What we need to do is believe it and try to live it in our lives in a very down-to-earth way. Therein lies the Kingdom of heaven of which he is the King who then hands us over to the Father.

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