A Sermon for the Eve of Christ the King 2011 by Fr Philip Corbett SSC, Priest Librarian of Pusey House.
King Most Holy, King of Truth
Guide the lowly, guide the youth
Christ thou King of glory bright
Be to us eternal light.
‘What do you do Father?’ is a question I am often asked, and before my fellow clergy try to answer on my behalf, I should say that I try to make my response to the question as enigmatic as possible. ‘It is not so much what I do’ I tell the curious undergraduate but rather ‘what I am.’ And I think that is true for all Christians and not just priests. We are Catholic Christians and that identity can never be taken from us. We have been marked with the sign of the cross at our baptism and confirmation, a sign you cannot see but one that is there all the same. Those of you familiar with the film Spartacus will recognise the scene the wicked troops of Rome surround Spartacus and his compatriots. ‘Give us Spartacus’ they say ‘and you can all go free’. One by one the slaves stand up and say ‘I am Spartacus’ aligning themselves with him, standing with him in his hour of need.
That is the stuff of legend but today we you and I stand with Christ the King and say ‘I am for Christ’, I am in his service. For today at the end of this Mass we will march with Christ in procession, and when we do this, when we take Jesus to the waiting world wonderful things happen. For the world is waiting, waiting to come into contact with her Lord and King and you and I can have a part in making this happen. It is no good to simply say, someone else can spread Gospel, no good to say someone else can do the works of charity, no good to say someone else can pray – we have been called and so we must serve in all the ways that God has given us. This may mean serving in our churches or in our communities but it can equally mean praying in our homes for those in need – whatever we do, whatever little service we can offer we must always remember that we do this for the Lord, for we are servants of the Universal King.
When Pope Pius XI instituted this feast he did so to counter the rampant secularism of his age, to remind the rulers of the nations that they too had to answer before their creator and to remind us that our first loyalty is to Christ our King. A Christian: that is what we are and that affects all that we do. Christianity cannot simply be one part of our life, something that we happen to do on a Sunday, rather it must be all that our life is, it must affect every part of that life. This will seem strange to the world. What will seem even stranger is the way we are called to serve this King. We are called not just to serve him but to serve his brothers and sisters and when we serve them, when we serve those who are most in need, when we visit those in prison, when we feed the hungry we do it to him. He cares for us and for all people so much that he wants us to serve and to pray for all humanity. To show our love for him in showing our love for other people. Our King, Jesus, loves us, he cares for us as a shepherd cares for his flock, our King loves us so much that he was willing to die upon the cross that we might be saved. The cross a sign of pain and torture is for us a sign of majesty and of hope.
In moments of difficulty, in times of sorrow as well as times of joy we must turn to Jesus, to our King. We must seek to offer our lives to him, lives of service, service that is of our choice. We must choose to serve our Lord and God, he will not force us to, he will not compel us to, it must be our choice offered freely. You and I know that being a Christian changes lives, that being a Christian means serving Our Lord and our brothers and sisters in ways that the world may not understand and in ways that may not always be easy or comfortable for us. Yet serve we must. One of the ways in which we can do this is through prayer, through bringing our lives, the lives of those in need and our broken church to God. As the Blessed Sacrament passes you in our procession today place at the feet of Our Lord and King all that is on your heart, place at his feet those who are in need, our Church that we might know unity and continue to proclaim the Catholic faith that has come to us from the Apostles, place at his feet the starving and the refugees and place at his feet your own lives that together we can continue to serve him, that we might know the love and guidance of the Good Shepherd.
Jesus, St Paul tells us will bring in the Kingdom of God. Jesus thee Universal King calls us all to his loving service, to spread the good news and love of the Gospel. We do so under the banner of his cross, that is our vocation as it is the vocation of every Christian. Our faith cannot be bound by the walls of the Church, let us then this day dedicate ourselves afresh to proclaiming the Catholic faith in the Church and in the world. It is a message the Church of England needs to hear and we through living lives of service and of prayer can show it to the Church. We do so, we go into the world to serve our King with the song of triumph on our lips:
Christus Vincit, Christus Regnant, Christus Imperat
Christ Conquers, Christ reigns, Christ rules! Amen