Homily From Christ the King Sunday, Year B

Christ the King in Russian Iconography

What are the first things that come to mind when you think of a king?  A crown maybe.  A royal scepter.  Maybe a big juicy turkey leg that he’s munching on.  But the one thing that every king has is a throne!  It’s more than a chair, or a place where they can sit down, but it’s the royal seat.  It is from the throne where the king administers justice, conducts diplomatic negotiations, receives petitions from his people, and executes his commands.  And even when the king isn’t sitting on the throne, it reminds people that he’s not just some citizen, but he is the sovereign, the ruler of the nation.  It’s at the throne where the king is given the task of guiding his nation, as maybe a captain guides a ship.  It’s also at the throne where the king is given the task of guiding his people, as a father guides his children.  The crown is a symbol of that two-fold royal identity.  And you can always tell what kind of king someone is by the look of their throne.

Every king has a throne, so when we celebrate Jesus as the King and Ruler of all Creation, the King of the Heavens, the Earth, and under the Earth, what do you think his throne looks like?  Most images picture Jesus as actually sitting on his throne, and it looks a lot like what we’d think a throne would look like.  But actually, Christ’s throne is one-of-a-kind.  We all know it.   It presides over every Catholic Church and over every Catholic school and parish center and household.  It’s the sign by which we are welcomed into the family of the Church, and the sign by which we leave this world.  It’s the mark of every Christian from those hiding from persecution in the catacombs to the babies who were just baptized a few weeks ago.  Christ’s throne, where he rules as king of Heaven and Earth, is the Cross.  And it’s different from, and superior to, any other throne on earth.

The Peacock Throne of the Mughai Empire

One of the most shocking characteristics of this throne is the material.  Look at other thrones around the world.  The famous Peacock Throne was the throne of the ruler of the Mughai Empire in India in the 1600’s.  It is one of the most famous thrones in history.  You ascended to the throne by steps made of pure silver.  It stood on four solid gold feet, with a golden canopy covering it.  The seat was filled with soft velvet and silk pillows.  Behind the seat was a screen decorated like two open peacock tails – hence the name – and it was gilded with gold, and inset with diamonds, rubies, pearls, and emeralds.  When someone approached the Peacock Throne, the intent was that they would be blinded by it’s splendor, almost as if it were a glimpse of heaven.  But where is it today?  Nobody knows.  The Peacock Throne, along with the Mughai Empire has been lost to the dust of history.

But what is Jesus’s throne made of?  It is rough, plain wood, and the only decoration is the dark red of the blood of the king who gave up his life upon it.  That throne and his kingdom remains, in every Catholic Church and in every Catholic home.  When we approach this throne, our eyes are not blinded by it’s majesty, but opened by it’s humility.  We see the price of salvation, the effects of our sins, the symbol of what hatred really can do – but we also see the unlimited mercy and love of our king.  We’re not dazzled by treasures like diamonds or pearls, but by the treasures of patience, kindness, forgiveness, and humility.  That’s what makes Christ’s throne beautiful.

One of the other shocking thins about this throne is it’s location.  One of the other most famous thrones in history was the Dragon Throne of the ancient emperors of China.  What made it impressive wasn’t necessarily its look, but its location.  It was at the very center of the Forbidden City, and off limits except for the most powerful subjects of the emperor.  When these important subjects, and even vassal kings were brought to the emperor to offer tribute, they were led through a maze of bridges, doorways, and long, winding hallways to get to the Dragon Throne.  Even when they did arrive before the emperor, they had to kneel and press their foreheads to the ground before saying a word.  All this was to emphasize the vast moral distance between the emperor and everyone else, even his most important guests.  But where is it now?  The Dragon Throne is empty, and the emperor is long gone.

Window from St. John’s Anglican Church in Ashfield

So where is the Lord’s throne located?  In pockets, on walls, worn around necks or wrists on jewelry, printed upon every Christian book or store around the world.  Unlike the Dragon Throne, all of this isn’t to emphasize the distance between us and our king, but the intimacy.  He draws us ever closer to him, and invites us to be with him always through that image of his throne.  It’s from this throne that he gives us his redemption because it is a symbol of suffering.  That’s a part of the life of every single person sitting here in this church today – everyone knows this suffering.  But the cross, that symbol of suffering with love, is always close to us, always near to us, always touching us, and we are invited to share that throne.

The material and the location of God’s throne is important, but the last detail is the most important.  Whereas most earthly thrones are probably roped off in museums or royal halls, Christ actually invites us to join him on his throne.  All he asks is that we share our sufferings with him, that we place our crosses on the altar with his.  When we do that, we’re not only subjects and followers of Christ the King, but we are co-heirs with him.  That’s why the Church gives us this feast day today – to remind us that to know, love, and follow Christ the King is the only real path to fullness of life and meaning.  So today, as we come before the throne to receive his body and blood in the Eucharist, let us ask him for the grace we need: never to be intimidated by earthly power, never to be seduced by earthly riches or affluence, never to be discouraged by the weight of our own crosses, but always to have the courage to ascend to his throne, and share ourselves with our King and Lord.

 

Please note: Usually I take some of my inspiration from around the homiletics world and various priests and podcasts that I look at earlier in the week.  This week, I owe a lot to epriest.com, so just know that some of the examples and even some of the outline is from their hard workers, to whom I now give the credit.

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