Saturday, 19 November 2011
We had a homily practice session at Ealing Abbey this week. Here below is the essence of the homily I preached on this Sunday's Gospel reading from Matthew 25: 31-46, for the Solemnity of Christ the Universal King. I've also provided a link to the Gospel passage here:
This week I managed to get myself a Penalty Fare Notice for £20 from the First Capital Connect Train Operating Company! I’d walked through an open barrier at City Thameslink train station in the City of London and genuinely forgot to swipe my Oyster card. Subsequently I was held to account by a Revenue Protection Officer who was inspecting tickets on the train. Doh! Mea culpa....
Life is associated with many accountings...to our employer...spouse...family...friends...even the bank manager!
Today’s Gospel focuses on the Last Judgement, what might be called the Great Accounting.... What is clear is that Jesus subverts the worldly concept of kingship, so often associated with wealth, power, prestige, war and oppression, by judging all peoples on the sole criterion of how they have served the the poor. To serve the poor is to serve him. He is a king who governs and judges universally in the interests of the poor.
Jesus himself comes to us as one of the poor. Bethlehem (O little town of.) Nazareth, (what good can come from Nazareth?) Cast out of Jerusalem by his own, defriended, executed naked on the local rubbish tip by an occupying power.
The story is told of St Martin of Tours. Young Martin was stationed as a Roman soldier at Amiens, in Gaul, when the incident occurred which tradition and art have rendered so famous. As he rode towards the town one winter day, he noticed near the gates a poor man, thinly clad, shivering with cold, and begging alms. Martin saw that none who passed stopped to help . He had nothing with him but the clothes he wore, but, drawing his sword from its scabbard, he cut his military cloak in two pieces, gave one half to the beggar, and wrapped himself in the other. That night, Martin in his sleep saw Jesus surrounded by angels. The angels asked Jesus where he got the cloak he was wearing. Jesus said to the angels, "Martin, my friend, gave it to me.”
This Gospel is Good News for the poor. Salvation comes to us from the poor. Who therefore would not want to serve them? Hence the Church’s emphasis on the preferential option for the poor. It should also be our preferential option when expressing and putting into effect our Christian discipleship, our response to our baptism.The poor must come first.
Jesus lists the service activities that gave rise to what have traditionally come to be known as the Corporal Works of Mercy..focused very much on the physical afflictions. Many new types of poverty now exist...work-related stress and other forms of mental ill-health, loneliness, drug, alcohol and pornography addictions. Can we be of any service here for a co-worker, a family member, the passing stranger?
But not because Jesus compels or asks us to do it. We do it because it is the right thing to do.
Therefore, when it comes to the Great Accounting, the Last Judgement...what is it to be for me? Come blessed of my Father or depart from me? The choice is ours...the consequences are significant and dictate our eternal destination...will we be counted as friends of Christ...will we reign with him?
All this is far more significant than the accounting associated with a £20 penalty fare notice!