Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christ the King (Cycle A)

   The Gospel reading for this week is very important. It is not an accident that the Church has selected this reading for the last Sunday in the liturgical year. Today we hear Jesus last public words to the crowds who were following Him. The gospel of Matthew tells us that after this, last public speech, given in Jerusalem; in just a few short days, The Lord would be dead, hanging on a cross. So today’s reading could be viewed as the culmination of Jesus message to the world.
   Now if we were to take all of Jesus’ teachings during his public ministry and were to give it a name, I think the best way of describing it would be as “The Law of Love”. In fact we can compress Jesus message into just a few very familiar statements. Love God with all your heart, your entire mind and all your soul, be a neighbor to all, and love all as yourself, love and pray for your enemies.
   Up to this moment in the ministry of Jesus, this Law of Love has been directed towards things we can easily identify: God, our neighbors, and our enemies. Today in this last message to the crowds Jesus directs us to go one step further. To this short list of statements about whom and how to love he adds one more element: Love those who for a better word we could call “Strangers”.
   Like I said, up to this moment it is easy to know who Jesus has been telling us to love.  We all have an idea of who God is, and we also have a pretty good idea, even if we do not know them personally, of whom our enemies and our neighbors might be, but “strangers” are something completely different. Strangers are people that we do not meet by accident, in fact these strangers are people who for one reason or another, either because they are sick, or in prison, or naked or hungry cannot be met were we normally meet others. To love these strangers we have to leave our circle of comfort and find them because they cannot leave their situation to find us.
   In our society we have taken this large mass of faceless strangers and turned them into a statistic. We clump them together and use phrases such as “the sick”, “the hungry”, “the homeless”, “the imprisoned”. “the immigrant”, to refer to them.
   What Jesus is doing with this final element of His “Law of love” is making sure no one, not one person, is left out from our responsibility to love them.  Those which are faceless, ignored or forgotten by others have become our responsibility, and it is up to us to find these “strangers” and love them as we would love our neighbors as we would like to be loved ourselves if we were in their situation.
   For Christians, for true followers of The Lord, Today’s gospel is one of the most challenging readings in the Gospel!   It demands deep reflection from us: how well and how much do I love? And I’m not talking about the kind of love that makes us feel good about ourselves, the kind of love which is easy to achieve. The love Jesus is demanding from us today is not a warm fuzzy feeling, but an act of the will. Is a love in which we must force ourselves into.
   But you know what is most amazing about this radical love for the stranger in need?  It brings us back to the very first of the Laws of Love!  The Lord tells us that in helping the stranger we help him; In going out and loving the stranger; we encounter Jesus himself, whom we have to love with all of our heart, all of our mind and all of our soul. The more we love the stranger the more we fulfill the very essence of the Law of Love.
   By now you might be thinking “ok, but how I, in my own little life can fulfill this command to love the stranger”? Well, I’m glad you asked! Here at St Michael’s we have ministries which are geared specifically towards doing just this! We have for example the yearly trip to Jamaica, I talking to Ted the other day and he said that he has only 2 people interested in going! We have the Chiros ministry to the prisons. We have the pastoral visitors to the Lorian senior center, a ministry we are planning to expand to other senior centers in the area. We have the first Saturday lunches for the homeless, in which for just 1 hour a month we prepare 500 lunches for a food center in Frederick. We have trips to Our Daily bread in Baltimore for our young people, so they can helps those who are hungry every day just 33 short miles from our homes. We have our food cellar which this year delivered groceries to 48 families who cannot spend their money on luxuries like Turkey Stuffing and pumpkin pies. We need volunteers to help in our funeral ministry. All you have to do is call the office and leave your information and someone will contact you.
  My brothers and sisters, today in this feast of Christ the King, I invite you to commit yourself to fulfilling Jesus Law of Love by fulfilling the needs of those who cannot be here with us is today. Remember, by loving the stranger we are loving God Himself. May you have a blessed thanks giving with your family and loved ones. Amen.