Sunday August 19th 2018

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST 26th November 2017

In our second reading at Mass today, St Paul sees in his mind’s eye Jesus Christ handing over the kingdom to God the Father at the end of time. The kingdom is not something to be piously hoped for as a future gift, something that drops out of nowhere when the end of the world comes.

No. The kingdom is something we Christians have been working for, moment by moment, since the day of Pentecost nearly two thousand years ago. We are bringing the kingdom about in our world right now. True, the full extent of the kingdom is indeed to be hoped for, but somehow the kingdom is also in our midst, in the process of becoming.

For me, the perfect image of the kingdom, and indeed the salvation won for us by God in his Son, Jesus Christ, is clothing, specifically children’s school clothes. My mother would always buy my school uniform too big because I was the only boy out of three children. There was no big brother to get hand-me-downs from or to pass outgrown clothes on to. I had to try to grow into those two-sizes-too-big clothes!

The kingdom burst into human history with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. It is several sizes too big for us, but our Christian vocation is to help the world ‘grow into’ the kingdom it is meant to be.

And, in the same way, our redemption, and that of every human being yet to be born, was completed on the cross, in Christ’s resurrection, in the day of Pentecost nearly two thousand years ago. Our redemption is claimed for us in our baptisms, but we spend the rest of our earthly life ‘growing into’ that redemption. We do this by every decision for love, for Christ we take.

Our Gospel today shows us how we are to be part of this continual bringing about of the fuller coming of God’s kingdom in our world. The kingdom comes whenever justice is done for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and the oppressed. To behave in this way is to imitate the Shepherd-King himself who is presented in our Gospels as one who eases alienation, who feeds, gives rest, heals and makes strong. Among his final words was a promise to the thief being crucified at his side, that he would be enfolded by the eternal love of God, in paradise.

The best way to honour Christ our King is to work for the unfolding and promoting of his kingdom.

In working for the relief of deprived, oppressed or marginalised people, we are serving Christ in person, because he fully identified with people in need, right up to his final moment in this life. Thanks to the situation in South Africa, more and more people are improving their security. All around us we see gated communities. Ordinary people’s homes have become as secure as fortresses and castles. As a child, I remember Catholic churches being open all day. My mother even remembered when the Cathedral in Johannesburg was open all night! We can no longer do this and Holy Redeemer is now one of the only Catholic churches in Cape Town where you can walk in and pray at any time, thanks to having security.

So it is a reality of our lives. However, we defeat the kingdom if we allow that need for security to prevent us from reaching out to those in need. For the sake of the kingdom, we cannot allow ourselves to merely ‘keep myself to myself’ with the excuse ‘I do nobody any harm.’

Not doing anything wrong is not enough. We have to positively do good in whatever way we can, even when we are limited in what is possible for us. To be deaf to the cries of my neighbour in need is to be deaf to Christ. To be blind to the anguish of the dying is to be blind to Christ. To recognise Jesus Christ as our Shepherd-king involves being carers or shepherds in some way ourselves; for the work of the Kingdom goes on until he comes again.

Perhaps it would be helpful to see that what Christ is talking about is bigger than just feeding the physically hungry, giving drink to the physically thirsty, clothing the physically naked, &c.

A person can be hungry for a smile, and we give them a sour look; a word of encouragement or comfort and we merely criticise. We can be thirsty for appreciation and all we receive is nagging and complaint. A person can be thirsty for friendship and we ignore them. You can be spiritually naked, lacking a sense of self-worth and others can refuse to cover you. Someone can be stripped of self-confidence and all we give them is more and more disapproval. A person can be naked through losing their good name, and we refuse to speak up for them.

We can be sick with doubt and worry and no one ever notices. You can be wounded by failure and disappointment and nobody cares. People are prisoners of their nerves and fears and we shun them. A person can be imprisoned by their guilt and we refuse to forgive.

We can be homeless through want of affection, sympathy, understanding and still be treated as though we were a block of wood. A person can be homeless through lack of love and acceptance and we can lock them out of our hearts.

The kingdom is built by us, block by block, day by day.

Fr Scott, CSsR

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