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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Jesus, Remember Me When You Come Into Your Kingdom

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai
Solemnity of Christ the King, 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Nov 20, 2016
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya

To understand the significance of this solemnity, it is important to keep in mind the circumstances around which Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in the year 1925 AD. This is the time between World War I and II. 

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini
Thumbing his nose at the Vatican, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini shed all pretence of democracy. He  clearly was consolidating a totalitarian fascist state. Nazi Germany was in its formative stages, and the wind of secularist nationalism -- that had no place for God -- was gathering all over the world. 

Nations were heavily arming themselves by developing sophisticated war machines, and it’s no wonder that these events degenerated into World War II. This is the war where even Africans were forced to get involved although they had no immediate interests in the war.

In this volatile situation, the Pope fired a shot of grace by reminding the whole world that
Pope Pius XI fired a shot of grace

He instituted the Solemnity of Christ the King
really only Christ is the King of the Universe. This was meant to be a sign of contradiction to the emerging political powers that had no regard for God nor for humanity.

Human beings have to constantly choose between ruling themselves and perish or allowing themselves to be ruled by God and live. In the first reading today (2 Samuel 5:1-3), the people of Israel make a covenant with David, whom the Lord had anointed saying, “I have found David my servant …. a man after my own heart.” 

Remember that the Lord anointed David after rejecting Saul as the leader of his people (1Sam13:9, 15:1-23). The Lord rejected Saul for two reasons. First, out of foolish anxiety and fear of the Philistines, Saul arrogated  to himself the office of prophet and priesthood, which the Lord had not given him. He did this by making a peace offering before the Lord. Only Samuel the Prophet was given the authority to make this sacrifice. Secondly, Saul got carried  away by greed and refused to put the spoils of war from Amalek under the ban as the Lord had commanded. In other words, Saul departed from depending on God in his political royalty and started depending on himself.

God therefore anoints David and establishes  him as a figure of the Kingship of Christ. We know that David is only a figure of Christ because prophet Nathan said to David that his dynasty shall endure forever (2Sam 7). But it is the prophet Isaiah who puts the record straight when says that “a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse." (Is 11:1-9) -- he will be king of Justice and Peace. In other words David became king of Israel and a figure of Christ because of his obedience to the Lord as opposed to Saul’s disobedience.

It is here that a stark difference between the kingdoms of this world and God’s Kingdom stand out. In the kingdoms of this world, men
follow their own designs, but in the kingdom of God, all the children submit themselves in obedience to God out of love. Christ is our first model of love and obedience to the Father. My brothers and sisters, this is the reason why in the Gospel today (Luke 23:35-43), Jesus is given to us as a crucified Messiah.

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And

"Jesus, remember me when you 
come into your kingdom."

indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  
(Luke 23: 39-43)

He is crucified out of love for the Father and love for those given to Him by the Father. He sacrifices himself for His people. While kings and rulers of this world can swiftly force physical submission by guns and tanks, Jesus conquers the heart with love. If guns and tanks do it swiftly and ruthlessly, love does it slowly and soothingly. Therefore the method of Christ may appear inefficient, unreliable and even a disillusionment. The  difference is that the former is short lived and the latter is everlasting. The kingdoms of this world may win one battle buts it's Christ who  wins the war.

People may feel ashamed of identifying themselves with a crucified Messiah, but that is exactly what Paul meant when he told the Corinthians (1Cor1:23) that “We preach Christ
Fr. Joe Mungai preaching to his people in Kenya 
crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks."
Again he says that to those being saved, the cross is an expression of the power of God. 

How do we know that Christ is winning? First, we know it because He is God. Secondly, we have 2000 years of history to look at. We have seen Jesus walk with and deliver His people from numerous clashes with the devil. All those earthly kingdoms that were so mighty  at the time of Pope Pius XI  were hell bent on exterminating the Catholic Church from the face of the earth. But she still stands, and they no longer exist. 

Dear brothers and sisters, it's up to you to chose with whom you want to align yourself.
"Today, you will be with me in Paradise."
Do you want to join those who look glorious today but will wither tomorrow, or do you want to identify yourself with the crucified Messiah
, and say, “I have no king but the Lord”?
Happy New Year ( Liturgical).

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