Homily for Mass – Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Year C)

(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: Saturday 6:00pm, Sunday 7:30am & 9:00am)

23/24 November 2013

[Readings: 2 Sam 5:1-3;  Ps 121;  Col 1:12-20;  Lk 23:35-43)

Apologies if you were at Mass at Park Ridge or Jimboomba last weekend, because I need to repeat part of what I said in my homily!

You will have seen in the news over the last few months many reports of various State-level Inquiries into sexual abuse in the Church.  There has been an Inquiry in Victoria, and another in New South Wales.  There is also the Royal Commission taking place nationally.  The Royal Commission is not just looking at the Catholic Church, but Institutions generally.  The fourth case study it will look at starting on December 9th will be the Catholic Church’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse, and particularly the Towards Healing process.  At this time, the Bishops want us all to be aware of the commitment they are making to the Royal Commission and to this problem in particular.  They have asked that the following statement be read at Masses.  And so, they say:

The Catholic Church in Australia, in its submissions to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and in its communications with both the Catholic and broader communities has made the following commitment:

The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia recognise and acknowledge the devastating harm caused to people by the crime of child sexual abuse.  We take this opportunity to state:

1               Sexual abuse of a child by a priest or religious is a crime under Australian law and under canon law.

2               Sexual abuse of a child by any Church personnel, whenever it occurred, was then and is now indefensible.

3               That such abuse has occurred at all, and the extent to which it has occurred, are facts of which the whole Church in Australia is deeply ashamed.

4               The Church fully and unreservedly acknowledges the devastating, deep and ongoing impact of sexual abuse on the lives of the victims and their families.

5               The Church acknowledges that many victims were not believed when they should have been.

6               The Church is also ashamed to acknowledge that, in some cases, those in positions of authority concealed or covered up what they knew of the facts, moved perpetrators to another place, thereby enabling them to offend again, or failed to report matters to the police when they should have.  That behaviour too is indefensible.

7               Too often in the past it is clear some Church leaders gave too high a priority to protecting the reputation of the Church, its priests, religious and other personnel, over the protection of children and their families, and over compassion and concern for those who suffered at the hands of Church personnel.  That too was and is inexcusable.

8               In such ways, Church leaders betrayed the trust of their own people and the expectations of the wider community.

9               For all these things the Church is deeply sorry.  It apologises to all those who have been harmed and betrayed.  It humbly asks for forgiveness.

The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia commit ourselves to endeavour to repair the wrongs of the past, to listen to and hear victims, to put their needs first, and to do everything we can to ensure a safer future for children.  (For more information on the Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council go to www.tjhcouncil.org.au).

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We hear in the Gospel today part of the Passion narrative.  This reminds us quite powerfully that the Christ who reigns as King of the universe, judge of all;  the One who is the Lord of history, and who is guiding everything to its fulfillment in the glory of God the Father – this King is the One who became flesh for us … who reached out to touch us with God’s blessing and healing;  who spoke God’s words of love to us;  who suffered with and for us, emptying himself completely, even to the shedding of his blood on the Cross.  He would stop at nothing to take us from the clutches of evil and to restore us to the Kingdom of His Father.

Our sins continue the suffering of Christ, and our grave sins continue his passion on the Cross.  The fact that we are baptized into his very body make our sins all the more shameful, because they are betrayals of him, and we wound Him in ourselves.

But as we ponder the image of Jesus on the Cross, we see not so much our judgment, but rather the love and mercy with which Christ has borne all things.  The sight of his death moves our hearts to pray for the grace of repentance – so that we will not crucify him with our sins any longer, but rather exalt him by our conversion; to lift him up by our rising to new life.  The sight of Jesus’ hanging on the Cross, wounded and bloodied by the blows of men, and the sight of his pierced side from which flowed blood and water, a fountain of love and mercy, moves us to share this love and mercy with others.

When “Pope Pius XI initiated [this] feast of Christ the King [in 1925] … he wanted every person to know that Jesus is superior to all the other would-be kings of his day: Mussolini’s Fascism, Hitler’s Nazism, Stalin’s Communism, Freud’s psychological determinism, and American materialism.  The Holy Father wanted to tell the Church then, and us today, that only Jesus can fill our deepest desires for love, peace, … happiness” and freedom (The Word Among Us, November 2013).

As we honour today Christ, the universal king, may God help us to advance the reign of Christ among all people.  May our lives as Christians point to that time when God will be all in all.  May we live today as true citizens of his kingdom, so that we can be part of that kingdom for all eternity.