Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon
Let all the blessings of Christ the King be on all of you. May his mighty power bring peace to your hearts and families. May his gentle hand bring healing to all of you. May his justice bring greater prosperity to all of you.
Before we enter into the Advent season of hope, the Church presents to us Jesus as a king. Kings have sovereignty over the lands and rule with the army. Jesus never accepted that kind of kingship. He was born in a manger, lived proclaiming “the son of man has nowhere to lay his head," was subjected to hunger and poverty, and ultimately killed on the cross by the greatest empire of those days: the Roman Empire. He was buried in a borrowed grave.
Although the gospels emphatically hail Christ as a king, heir to the throne of David, as well as the King of Heaven – "The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David," says the Angel Gabriel: "and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" – Jesus in every possible way declined to accept worldly sovereignty. "My Kingdom is not of this world,” he told Pilate (Jn 18:36).
We are accustomed in the Catholic tradition to magnificent images and representations of Christ as a king or emperor, richly dressed in robes of gold, bearing the crown that symbolizes authority and power in earth and in heaven. That is the splendor of many cathedrals.
But Christ has not always been thought of as a king. In the first century we cannot find any representations of Christ in physical form at all, but only in signs – groups of letters like the Trigram. Or the sign of the fish. Other early representations are of Christ as the paschal lamb; as the true vine; as the Good Shepherd.
To the early Christians -- the king was the Emperor of Rome, a figure of worldly power who persecuted them, martyred them, forced them to worship false gods. It would have been strange for them to think of Jesus as resembling their greatest enemy. So instead they imagined Jesus as more like themselves: the suffering servant who was obedient even unto death; or in terms of the homely things that surrounded them and supported their lives, the lamb, the vine, the fish, the shepherd. God who emptied himself and took the form of slave; not king.
In the Catholic Church the feast was introduced by Pius XI only in 1925. Instituting this feast, Pope Pius XI proclaimed: “Pax Christi in regno Christi” (“The Peace of Christ in the reign of Christ”). This feast was established and proclaimed by the pope to reassert the eternal truth; it is God alone who is the giver of life. He is the king of life. Pope Pius XI brought this feast to remind the cruel dictators of that era: the totalitarian governments of Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin that killed millions. The pope brought this feast to remind all dictators: life is not owned or destroyed by any human being. God is the King of life, King of the whole universe.
What does this feast mean to all of us? What does this mean as it comes during the invasive "sovereignty" of the virus? God is our father; Christ is our brother. Christ is the King of Kings. He gave us the greatest gift: a greater gift than being the Kings. He made us sons and daughters of the living God with eternal life. The royalty of Christ is the royalty of love.
There is a story of two men. They were in Paris and they were watching the King of France alighting from his golden chariot, full of courtiers and people bowing and scraping, everybody wearing beautiful clothing. And one of the men said, “I live to see the day when royalty is treated like commoners.” And his friend smiled and he said, “I live to see the day when commoners are treated like royalty.”
Christ through his "throne of Cross" elevated commoners like you and me to the exalted status of "God’s Children." We have become his possession. Yes, God’s own possession. We join the Royal Court of God. The commoners raised to royalty.
St Peter exclaims with joy: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
What kind of King is Jesus? Christ the King comes in the form of a Shepherd: Jesus is the king who will seek us out where we are, a king who provides for our every need, a king who corrects us and guides us along the path we must follow.
Today’s first reading tells us the tender love of this King. Ezekiel says “the lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.” Yes, this is the healing King who today comes to us, to every house where we are frightened of this virus, every hospital bed where an infected person is waging a battle for life, the shepherd King stays near and says "the sick I will heal."
The reading goes to say “I will rescue the sheep from every place where they were scattered when it was dark and cloudy: I myself will pasture my sheep.”
Yes, brothers and sisters: This is a very moving imagery of a God whose love is that of a Good Shepherd who was not hesitant to give his life. It is this living, loving and liberating God the psalmist proclaims with joy and total faith:
The Lord is my Shepherd: nothing I shall want
He will lead me to green pastures and give me rest
He guides me in right paths (Psalm 23)
World leaders rule by armies, wars and authority: the only authority Christ the King brought is the authority of Love. When every human being is turned into love, Christ will hand over his land of love to the Father.
St Paul tells us the destiny of the world is not in power; but in love. Love will destroy all sovereignty, authority and power. There will be a new Kingdom of God, where there will be no more tears, no more death. That is God’s Kingdom. A kingdom of everlasting life and love. It is the heaven. Christ is the King. That is the celebration today.
In the second reading of first letter to Corinthians, Paul proclaims: In Christ everything will be brought to life: then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God the Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. (I Cor 15: 20-28)
What does this feast mean to Myanmar which has elected a new government?
Not only Myanmar government, all the world government need to emulate the kingship of Jesus. His Kingship was marked by three major virtues:
Christ is the Prince of Peace
Christ is the symbol of servant leadership
Christ is the King of Mercy and forgiveness.
Christ the Prince of Peace: Peace was at the heart of Christ message. His birth was foretold by Isaiah as the coming of the prince of Peace.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6),
He brought reconciliation with the Father. He reconciled humanities brokenness. All through his life he preached peace. “Peace be with you” was his constant greeting and prayer.
It is really vital for the leaders of our country to seek total peace. We have lived in darkness of hatred, war and displacement for too long. We long for the dawn of peace, wait for the rise of the Sun of peace in this Golden land. We pray the new government may bring peace, invest in peace and establish God’s Kingdom of peace and prosperity in this land.
Servant Leadership: Christ washed the feet of his disciples giving a great lesson in transformational, servant leadership. Leadership is shown in humility. In the last supper Jesus demonstrated his servant leadership through a moving example of washing the feet of his disciples.
You call Me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, because I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. (John 13:13)
True leadership is based on not siding with the rich and the powerful but with the weak and the vulnerable: Jesus chose to identify himself with the least of the Jewish society, affirming his preferential option for the poor:
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and to give His life as a ransom for many." (John 20:28)
Today’s Gospel takes up this theme. Anyone who forgets the poor, God will forget him. All Kings, leaders and all of us will be judged on the judgement day by the Eternal King God: We will be judged by the way we treated the poor and the suffering. We will be asked whether we used our power and influence to help those who are the poor and suffering.
Governments and individuals when they help the poor, the Bible says, they help God himself. “Whatever you do to the least of my people, you do it to me” (Mt 25:40). Such government will be rewards in this world and the world to come. Governments and individuals when they forget the poor, will be consigned to punishment fire.
Christ the King of Mercy and Forgiveness: The Covid pandemic is teaching us one of the most essential survival virtues: Mercy Metta. Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36). I seek mercy not sacrifice said Yahweh. (Hos 6:6). The whole humanity can survive only by mercy. Leaders of the world are here to bring mercy; not hatred. God has given to this world everything.
But wrong policies have brought wars and millions of deaths, starvation, pandemic and misery of whole humanity. In Christ’s Kingdom there will not be splendor of any big army, but the soothing breeze of mercy will flow over all. In Christ’s Kingdom there will not be war among religions, races but forgiveness seventy times seven.
A new government with strong majority gives this country a great chance to heal the historical wounds. We must continue our Panglong Pilgrimage of Peace. We are brothers and sisters in one God. There is no majority and minority. This country belongs to everyone because it is the God who "sends sun and rain over all." God is color blind, God does not understand race, but relates to each one of us as his own children. We are brothers and sisters in this Golden land. Peace is possible, peace is the only way. Jesus says: Blessed are you the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. (Mt:5:9). Leaders can become such children of God in any country.
Let us end this great feast with the Kingdom Prayer of one of the greatest soldiers of Christ’s army of love and mercy, Saint Mother Teresa, who said:
“Many today are starving for ordinary bread. But there is another kind of hunger –
the hunger to be wanted, the hunger to be loved, the hunger to be recognized."
The biggest disease in the world today is the feeling of being unwanted and uncared for.
The greatest evil in the world is lack of love, the terrible indifference towards one’s neighbor.” Lord, warm our cold hearts with your grace, so that we your disciples may produce the fruits of love as you have taught us and with this love, we shall build your Kingdom of Mercy.”
Stay blessed, Stay Safe. The Lord is in charge of our lives. Amen.