Why was it that the thief who was crucified next to Jesus recognized him as a king while the religious leaders did not? Jesus gives us the answer when he explains why he teaches with parables. Jesus says quoting the prophesy of Isaiah,
“You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted and I heal them.” (Mt 13:14-15)
Because the thief recognized his guilt and that his punishment corresponded to his crime, he was able with the eyes of his contrite heart to recognize Jesus as king and Messiah and ask him for mercy. The process is the same for us; we must recognize our sinfulness and our need of Our Lord’s mercy and forgiveness.
There have been many books and articles written in the past few years about loss of the reality of sin and its consequences. This is what we call relativism. Each person thinks they can decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong as if there were no objective truth about what is right and wrong. We can see the consequence of this all around us. Our society accepts as okay, many things we knew to be objectively wrong fifty years ago. We have come to a point as a society that we no longer “Have eyes that see and ears that hear and hearts that are willing to be converted.”
Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, but the question for each of us is; is Christ truly our King? Is he the Lord of our life? Do we understand that we need his mercy and grace to overcome the sins that want to dominate our lives?
I know I have told you this story before, but I think it is appropriate to share with you again on this Feast Day: Thirty some years ago when I was a hotel manager, the food and beverage manager and I were having lunch when he asked me if Jesus was the Lord of my life.
I don’t remember what I told him, but I do remember that my answer should have been no. I went to Mass every Sunday, but that was the end of my faith experience for the week. I was anxious to get home and watch football or do something else of similar importance. However, that question began to haunt me. I believed in God, but how much influence did he have on the decisions I made; very little?
That was a wake up call for me. Where was I going with my life? What were my priorities? How important was my faith? It was shortly after that when I bought my first Bible and joined a prayer group. Through a series of decisions and circumstances my faith began to become alive and it became a major influence in my life. I thank God for that wake up call because it changed the course of my life. It is the reason why I stand here today. I am truly grateful that God gave my wife Mary Jane and I, at the same time, the grace to desire a personal relationship with Him. There are no words to describe the joy we have discovered these past thirty years because we have made an effort to place God first in our lives. It is only possible to reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity when our life is ordered to God according to the truths He has revealed to us through the Church and the Scriptures.
Because of our fallen nature, even though our conscience tells us otherwise, we may think that there will be a time later on in our life when we will naturally be inclined to draw close to God.
That’s not true. It will never come naturally for us. It is a decision we can only make with the help of God’s grace when we finally come to the point that we are ready to place God’s will before our will. The sooner we make that decision, the sooner will we experience peace, joy and hope because God is the source of peace, joy and hope.
This weekend is the conclusion of the Year of Faith, which began October 12, 2012 at the request of then Pope Benedict XVI. The purpose of the “Year of Faith” was a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world.
Pope Benedict XVI set aside a special year for Catholics throughout the world to rediscover, and share with others, the precious gift of Faith entrusted to the Church and the personal gift of faith that we have each received from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Was there anything that happened during this “Year of Faith” that helped you to have an authentic and renewed conversion to Our Lord? If so, that was a wonderful thing not only for you, but also for the whole Church.
If not, I am going to give to you the same favor I received thirty years ago: Is Jesus the Lord of your life? Is there anything in your life more important than Jesus? On this Feast of Christ the King do you want to call Jesus your King and your Lord and serve Him faithfully? If you can say yes, you are living the best years of your life from now until eternity even if you have to suffer for a time. I want to say this little prayer with you:
Jesus, on this your feast day we ask you to be Our King and Our Lord. Give us the grace we need to draw close to you through the sacraments of your Church, through the Scriptures and through our commitment to daily prayer. Help us to discover the great plan you have for us so that we may be happy now and forever. Amen.