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Homily: Christ The King 2023.docx

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe: to some degree I think the title of today’s feast day could miss the mark of its original purpose and design. For did you ever notice, nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus say to worship him, much less as a king – he simply said to follow him and to do as he does. The best description of all of this, across all the Gospels, appears in today’s reading of Matthew’s recording of Jesus’ last discourse which indicates kinship seems to be more important that kingship. What does that look like? Check it out…

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1 Deacon Jim Knipper
26 November 2023 Christ the King Princeton, NJ
We come to the end of our liturgical year as we celebrate the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the
Universe. And to some degree I think the title and some of the art depicting Christ sitting on a throne
wearing a gold crown has given this feast a connotation that misses the mark of its original purpose and
design. So, what is this Feast Day all about and more importantly what direction does it give us to live a
life rooted in Christ? For those answers let’s take a look at: the historical background…then today’s
Gospel…and then end with a story which brings some reality to this Feast Day.
At the end of World War I the roaring 20’s were in full swing and much ado was being made about the
kings and royalty of the world. With that, the Franciscans, saw the need for all of us to be rerooted in our
faith – to be connected to our God and to each other. And they felt that our lives should be focused and
centered around one thing and that should be Christ. So, they urged Rome for a new feast day to
celebrate the Cosmic Christ.
For the Franciscan theology teaches us that at the beginning of time – what some call the Big Bang,
which took place about 14.6 billon years ago - God desired to materialize so that the invisible was made
visible. God said let there be Light! God created and said it was good. And if we read the prologue to
John, or some of Paul’s letters or the first letter of John – it is clear that Christ in God has existed for all
eternity, not just since the birth of Jesus. Rather Jesus, who was born and was crucified 2,000 years
ago became the human incarnation of the Christ – again God making visible what was invisible.
Knowing that his human physical time on earth would end, Jesus promised to send us an advocate – the
Holy Spirit, who would be with us always, so that we could continue his works. As St. Teresa of Avila
wrote: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours. Yours are the feet with which he
is to go about doing good; Yours are the hands with which he is to bless all people now.”
But how? And is this really all that important? Well…that takes us to the Gospel – which is one of my
favorites because it is the only description of the Last Judgment in any of the four gospels. It is
Matthew’s recording of Jesus’ last discourse before the events of his Passion begin to unfold. And it is
this Gospel that tells us how and where we need to focus. For did you ever notice, nowhere in the
Gospels does Jesus say to worship him, much less as a king – he simply said to follow him and to do as
he does.
Actually, this is the root of what Pope Francis has been preaching and teaching and living during his
pontificate. And it has been interesting, over the years to hear how some say his words are confusing
others. Actually – there is nothing confusing about being Christ-like – it is just hard work, especially if
you are not used to it.
And how important is this? Well Matthew tells us that we will not be judged necessarily how often we
were right or wrong, or on how closely we followed the laws or whether we said the right words or even
how well we followed all the canon laws…Rather we will be judged on how well we were able to shed
our egos in order to follow him in feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring
for the ill, and visiting those in prison – or in other words – to follow Christ in how he
forgave…loved…and cared for others.
2 Deacon Jim Knipper
This is the transformation and the human connectedness that this Cosmic Christ calls out to us in the
today’s gospel… This, my brothers and sisters is where the rubber meets the road…this is what Christ
did and it is what the gospel calls us to do…and the easy part is that we don’t have to look far for the
hungry, the thirsty, the naked, or the ill for it is you and me…our brother and our sister, mother and
father, neighbor and co-worker. It is the face you see in the mirror…it is the faces of Christ disguised in
our daily lives.
You see - the paradox of the title of today’s Feast is that Christ was not all about kingship – but rather
kinship. Which brings me to this closing story as told by Fr. Greg Boyle, who visited us this past May. He
is the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention, rehab and re-entry program in the
world. Author of three bestselling books, Greg actually wrote a homily for this feast day in the book I
published a few years ago, called, Naked, And You Clothed Me…and in it he tells this story:
“Martha has had a tough life. Abandoned, tortured and abused as a child, she, predictably, transmitted
her pain, long before she got around to transforming it. Gangs, drugs and prison filled nearly two
decades of her life. And, she carries in her addiction that particularly heartbreaking pain of giving birth,
and having the child taken away and raised by strangers. She works for me and is solid in her recovery
now. But the shame and disgrace, which is the principle suffering of the poor, still weighs heavily.”
“We talked in my office one day, about stuff and she just begins to sob. She folds her arms on the front
of my desk and rests her weary, weeping head there. I touch her shoulder and ask, “Why are you
crying?” She looks up and blurts, “I wish you were God.” This makes me chuckle, “Why?” When Martha
can form the words through her sobbing, she says, “I think…you’d let me into heaven.” Now it’s my turn
to cry. I reach across the expanse of my desk, and I grab both her hands and pull her in close. “Kiddo…I
swear to you…IF I get to heaven and you’re not there…I’m not stayin’.””
“Martha has changed my life forever. Knowing her has altered the course of my days, re-shaped my
heart and returned me to myself. Both of us…are diamonds covered in dust. She has taught me that I
am not somebody, but that I am everybody. And so is she. Exquisite mutuality. Kinship. It is what’s left,
when the margins get erased.
Kingship makes Jesus yawn. Now, kinship…that’s another story.”
According to today’s Gospel there really is no story more important than that. For we are called to have
lives centered around kinship…reaching out to others so that others can reach us. Thereby allowing us
to mutually erase our margins…communally making Christ visible…and equally sharing in God’s love.
Nothing confusing…nothing needing a golden crown...just answering the call to go forth to live this great
Gospel of the Lord.

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Homily: Christ The King 2023.docx

  • 1. 1 Deacon Jim Knipper 26 November 2023 Christ the King Princeton, NJ We come to the end of our liturgical year as we celebrate the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. And to some degree I think the title and some of the art depicting Christ sitting on a throne wearing a gold crown has given this feast a connotation that misses the mark of its original purpose and design. So, what is this Feast Day all about and more importantly what direction does it give us to live a life rooted in Christ? For those answers let’s take a look at: the historical background…then today’s Gospel…and then end with a story which brings some reality to this Feast Day. At the end of World War I the roaring 20’s were in full swing and much ado was being made about the kings and royalty of the world. With that, the Franciscans, saw the need for all of us to be rerooted in our faith – to be connected to our God and to each other. And they felt that our lives should be focused and centered around one thing and that should be Christ. So, they urged Rome for a new feast day to celebrate the Cosmic Christ. For the Franciscan theology teaches us that at the beginning of time – what some call the Big Bang, which took place about 14.6 billon years ago - God desired to materialize so that the invisible was made visible. God said let there be Light! God created and said it was good. And if we read the prologue to John, or some of Paul’s letters or the first letter of John – it is clear that Christ in God has existed for all eternity, not just since the birth of Jesus. Rather Jesus, who was born and was crucified 2,000 years ago became the human incarnation of the Christ – again God making visible what was invisible. Knowing that his human physical time on earth would end, Jesus promised to send us an advocate – the Holy Spirit, who would be with us always, so that we could continue his works. As St. Teresa of Avila wrote: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; Yours are the hands with which he is to bless all people now.” But how? And is this really all that important? Well…that takes us to the Gospel – which is one of my favorites because it is the only description of the Last Judgment in any of the four gospels. It is Matthew’s recording of Jesus’ last discourse before the events of his Passion begin to unfold. And it is this Gospel that tells us how and where we need to focus. For did you ever notice, nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus say to worship him, much less as a king – he simply said to follow him and to do as he does. Actually, this is the root of what Pope Francis has been preaching and teaching and living during his pontificate. And it has been interesting, over the years to hear how some say his words are confusing others. Actually – there is nothing confusing about being Christ-like – it is just hard work, especially if you are not used to it. And how important is this? Well Matthew tells us that we will not be judged necessarily how often we were right or wrong, or on how closely we followed the laws or whether we said the right words or even how well we followed all the canon laws…Rather we will be judged on how well we were able to shed our egos in order to follow him in feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the ill, and visiting those in prison – or in other words – to follow Christ in how he forgave…loved…and cared for others.
  • 2. 2 Deacon Jim Knipper This is the transformation and the human connectedness that this Cosmic Christ calls out to us in the today’s gospel… This, my brothers and sisters is where the rubber meets the road…this is what Christ did and it is what the gospel calls us to do…and the easy part is that we don’t have to look far for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, or the ill for it is you and me…our brother and our sister, mother and father, neighbor and co-worker. It is the face you see in the mirror…it is the faces of Christ disguised in our daily lives. You see - the paradox of the title of today’s Feast is that Christ was not all about kingship – but rather kinship. Which brings me to this closing story as told by Fr. Greg Boyle, who visited us this past May. He is the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention, rehab and re-entry program in the world. Author of three bestselling books, Greg actually wrote a homily for this feast day in the book I published a few years ago, called, Naked, And You Clothed Me…and in it he tells this story: “Martha has had a tough life. Abandoned, tortured and abused as a child, she, predictably, transmitted her pain, long before she got around to transforming it. Gangs, drugs and prison filled nearly two decades of her life. And, she carries in her addiction that particularly heartbreaking pain of giving birth, and having the child taken away and raised by strangers. She works for me and is solid in her recovery now. But the shame and disgrace, which is the principle suffering of the poor, still weighs heavily.” “We talked in my office one day, about stuff and she just begins to sob. She folds her arms on the front of my desk and rests her weary, weeping head there. I touch her shoulder and ask, “Why are you crying?” She looks up and blurts, “I wish you were God.” This makes me chuckle, “Why?” When Martha can form the words through her sobbing, she says, “I think…you’d let me into heaven.” Now it’s my turn to cry. I reach across the expanse of my desk, and I grab both her hands and pull her in close. “Kiddo…I swear to you…IF I get to heaven and you’re not there…I’m not stayin’.”” “Martha has changed my life forever. Knowing her has altered the course of my days, re-shaped my heart and returned me to myself. Both of us…are diamonds covered in dust. She has taught me that I am not somebody, but that I am everybody. And so is she. Exquisite mutuality. Kinship. It is what’s left, when the margins get erased. Kingship makes Jesus yawn. Now, kinship…that’s another story.” According to today’s Gospel there really is no story more important than that. For we are called to have lives centered around kinship…reaching out to others so that others can reach us. Thereby allowing us to mutually erase our margins…communally making Christ visible…and equally sharing in God’s love. Nothing confusing…nothing needing a golden crown...just answering the call to go forth to live this great Gospel of the Lord.