This homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King is based on Matthew 25:31-46.
One of my guilty pleasures these last eight months of the quarantine–also, a much-needed coping device–is treating myself to a show on Netflix at the end of the day (shout out and thanks to my friend who has generously shared the password!).
And last night I just watched the second to the last episode of Season 4 of The Crown.
The show has never failed to entertain and intrigue even non-Anglophiles like myself. And as if Queen Elizabeth (played by Olivia Colman) isn’t fascinating enough as a subject, this season focuses on her relationships with two very different women who are just as fascinating as the Queen: the strong Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson, yes, from the X Files) and the vulnerable Princess Diana (newcomer Emma Corrin).
Of course one understands all too well that the creators of the show may well have taken liberties with the story, but one can’t help but be affected by the show just the same (“You know it’s fiction, right?” my friend messaged me when I complained to her about the character of Prince Charles).
But one thing that seems true-to-life is the one word that the character of the Queen uses to explain all her actions and motivations: “Duty.”
When you think about it, the Queen must have always had this unequivocal sense of duty to the Crown from the time she ascended the throne at the age of 27 back in 1952. For how else can one account for such a long and successful reign?
Which brings me to the other Crown that we remember today. Today, earlier than usual in the year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, signaling the end of the liturgical year and ushering in the Season of Advent.
As King, our Lord of course wears a very different kind of Crown. It has not precious stones, but thorns. But more importantly, as illustrated all too clearly in his life and especially his death, our Lord is a very different sort of royalty.
Surely, one might say, the Lord must feel an infinitely stronger sense of duty to his Crown!
I’d like to think so, but I can’t help but suspect that it must take something else other than a strong sense of duty to be our Lord’s kind of royalty. It must take something more.
More than duty, it must be love.
Love goes far beyond the call of duty. Only love can explain the kind of royalty that leads our Lord to vacate his heavenly throne, to descend among his subjects, and to allow the worst of them to inflict pain on him and cause his death. That’s worth thinking about today.
Also worth thinking about is that the following of such a King likewise entails more than a sense of duty. It also entails love.
Today’s Gospel reading is the familiar account of the Lord sorting out “the sheep” from “the goats”–i.e., between those who will be rewarded and those who will not. And the question our Lord says he’s bound to ask each one of us will be pretty straightforward. It sound like a checklist of sorts, but the items are few–only a total of six items–and they sound pretty simple. Here goes:
1. Feed the hungry.
2. Give drink to the thirsty.
3. Welcome the stranger.
4. Clothe the naked.
5. Care for the sick.
6. Visit the prisoners.
These cannot be performed simply out of a sense of duty. These tasks can be undertaken only out of love for one’s King–not only because he has done all this in his own life, but also and especially because as he reminds us, he is the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner among us.
May today’s Solemnity of Christ our King give us a share of his great love for us, so that we may follow him with love.