Of Presidents and Kings

Here is my homily for today's last Sunday of the church year, Christ the King.

As Americans, today is probably the most complicated feast day in the Catholic liturgical year.  After all, our whole country was founded on the whole idea of rejecting kings, rejection monarchy.  The Declaration of Independence, our founding document, was basically a big break up letter to King George.  This sense of independence continues today.  So much so that we as a nation drive ourselves insane every four years in the campaign to elect a new president... only to drive ourselves insane again four years later... all so that we can live without a monarchy.  Yet here we are, twelve days after the last presidential election marking the feast day of Christ the King. 

Maybe, when we think about it, that's not such a bad thing.  About half of the country is still in a state of shock while those who supported the other candidate continue to celebrate.  But we know that if the election had turned out differently, the roles would be reversed with that first group being jubilant and the the current group feeling despondent (which is not to include the great number of people who were comfortable with either candidate).  That's how it's been in America for the past number of decades.  One person is in office, and half the country is hapy and the other half is furious.  The parties in power change over and the roles of the jubilant and aggrieved switch sides.  

So maybe as Catholic Americans, we need to be reminded—especially today—that while presidents may come and go, our King—Christ the King—remains.  And that is Good News.  Because in Christ, we do not have a King who does not seek to have his name put upon a billboard but allows himself to be nailed on a cross.  In Christ, we do not have a have a king who points fingers at the moral failings of others, but allows himself to be counted among the criminals and outcasts, knowing that we are all outcasts at some pint in our lives.  In Christ, we do not have a King who says vote for me... we have a King who says follow me.  

I will say, that is what one of the most frustrating things about Jesus.  Most Kings and Queens want people to praise them.  Most want people to worship them.  (And we've had quite a number of presidents who never seemed to mind a good bit of adulation themselves.)  But if you read the gospels, Jesus never says "Worship me" to the people he encountered.  He always said "Follow me." 

I will say, sometimes I wish he just said "Worship me."  Because worshiping this Christ the King is a lot easier than following him.  In following Christ the King, we need to serve and associate with the people whom he served and associated with... the outcasts of this world.  And for us in America, those who are considered outcasts make up a very long list.  The unborn of a woman in crisis, but whose genuine needs might put a strain on the social safety net.  The illegal immigrants of whom we might not approve, but whose desperation to provide for their families we could all identify with if we were in their situation.  The protester with whom we might have an honest disagreement.  The Muslim with whom we struggle in trusting.  The list of outcasts in this world is not short and following the King who cares for them is not easy.  Yet we never can doubt that it is Good News that we have such a king.  Because the vast majority of us in our lives have had some direct experience of being an outcast... whether it be in school, our communities, our businesses, or even our families.  

Presidents may come and go, but our Christ the King remains.  The King who reaches out to us when we are outcast, but also challenges us to reach out to the other outcasts around us.  The king who doesn't necessarily have a problem when we worship him but really likes it when we follow Him.  The King who says to all of us, "Today you will be with me in paradise."  A paradise we can share not only in heaven, but here on this Earth when we all follow Him together.