A Small word with Great Meaning

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HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING 2016

SEAN CAVENY

 

Readings:  Sam.5:1-3/Col. 1:12-20

            Psalm:  122:1-5

            Gospel:  Lk. 23:35-43

 

“Amen.” It is such a simple word but it has so much meaning. Whenever we petition the angels and saints whenever we asked for intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whenever we pray to the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit, we always end our prayer-our requests for their aid-with a simple word “Amen.” It is used practically every day at one time or another in this world; yet imagine that many people don’t really know what this word actually means. The dictionary defines the word Amen as “so be it” or “truly it is so.” But is this word all that this definition implies? If that’s all this word really means, then why do we place such an emphasis on it in our worship in our own prayer life?

Perhaps this word is reflective upon the feast celebrated today. I mean, think about the life that Jesus spent here on earth and what we make of that today. Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, Prince of peace, could’ve easily come into this world with a fanfare and a large procession proclaiming his arrival to his father’s children. Instead, he came to earth as any mortal person would.  He could’ve been born to one of the noblest families in all of Israel. Instead, he was conceived to a virgin betrothed to a carpenter in a small town of Nazareth. His birth could’ve been in a fine home or palace that denoted his royalty. Instead, it came in a stable, being wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a humble manger.

Despite his lowly beginnings, his birth created much excitement and turmoil in all of Israel. Shepherds came down from their flocks to bid the child homage. Wiseman came from the East to worship the newborn King of the Jews and offer him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The king of Israel was so enraged of his birth that he gave an order to slaughter every child less than two years of age to protect his kingship. As he grew in wisdom and knowledge, his ministry drew great crowds because of what he had to say and what he had to do to bring the faithful closer to God.

Yet even before his ministry began, this duality of who Jesus was is demonstrated by the ministry of John the Baptist, the “voice crying out in the wilderness.” John prepared his disciples for the coming of the Messiah, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” And yet while most heralds are dressed in the grand splendor, John wore a tunic of camel’s hair and ate wild honey and locusts.

Most leaders have an entourage of the wisest and most powerful people they can have. But Jesus had those who were looked down upon and despised. He had fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, and some of the poorest of the poor of Israel to be his inner circle of advisors. While Jesus learned from them, they also learned from him the way that God wished his children to behave here on earth. His disciples even included one who would eventually turn his back on Jesus and turn him over to the Jewish authorities to be convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death. While most leaders depended upon his advisors to counsel him to be a success, Jesus apostles were there to help him spread the good news to the entire world; even if meant the ending of his own life.

The manner of Jesus’ death has a dual meaning for us.  Crucifixion was a form of execution that was reserved for the poor and the common of society. Yet his death on the cross became the ultimate symbol for our salvation. His burial without having his body prepared in the Jewish manner showed a sign of disgrace by one who was thought to be unworthy. Yet it was because of the return of the women on that third day to prepare his body properly, do we have the witness of his resurrection. Even as he hung on the cross, those same people who listened to him and were amazed by his miracles went by him ridiculing and laughing at him and taunting him to come down from that cross so that they can truly believe that he is the Messiah. But all of this humiliation, and all of this torture, and all of this betrayal became the impetus of his glory when he was resurrected on the third day. For everyone that was exalted shall be humbled; but everyone that humbles himself will be exalted.

While Jesus humbled himself by coming to earth, every so often he gave his disciples just a glimpse of his heavenly glory. His changing water to wine; his curing the sick; his walking on water; his transfiguration in front of Peter, James and John were just small glimpses of his true self and what lay in store for the children of God when they enter into paradise. And yet all of these came from the simple, humble premise: to make everyone’s life better by knowing, learning and loving his father in heaven. Jesus’s message was a simple one. In order for us to see the divine, we must first understand the ordinary.

Understanding the ordinary to see the divine is also displayed here in the Mass. Those elements that we bring to the altar-a simple piece of bread made from just water and flour, and wine made only from the grapes of the vine-will become the body and blood of Jesus through the divine act of transubstantiation. And yet it would taste the same, look the same, appear to be the same, but yet it is much, much more than our minds can imagine.  While we sometimes tend to overlook the meaning of this simple act, we need to understand and truly believe that with what we partake at each Mass is more than just symbol, more than just a metaphor, it is the true and real presence of our Savior coming to help us as we journey through our time here on earth. For if we did understand that in its entirety, we would stammer and stumble for the right words to come out of our mouths to express our appreciation and gratitude to be in his presence each and every Sunday. But yet, for all the words that have been said on this planet; all the proclamations that have been said; all the speeches, shouts and exclamations shouted at the top of our lungs throughout all of history, the only word that can ever be uttered that gives total glory while proclaiming perfect simplicity is “Amen.”

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK

            Questions for Reflection:

  1. What other words that you know that seem small but have a lot of meaning for you?
  2. If you saw someone you respected be accused of fraud, how would you respond?
  3. How will you continue Pope Francis’ hope for mercy after the Jubilee year is over?
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