If you don’t understand what it means to be subject to God in his kingship, then our gospel tells you exactly what it is. For when I was hungry, you gave me food, when I was thirsty, you gave me drink when I was a stranger, you made me welcome naked and you clothed me sick and you visited me in prison and you came to see me
In the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
And so today we celebrate the solemnity of Christ, the king, and it’s a really what can be an awkward one, it can be a difficult one because none of us like to be subject to anything do we. None of us like to be told what to do. We live in a world that says, well, if you feel this is the right thing, then go and do it.
And we don’t like being told that we are wrong and that perhaps our feelings may not be leading us to ultimate truth.
And actually, this solemnity has been relatively modern. It was introduced in 1925 after the First World War by Pope Pius, and he instituted it in the wake of the First World War and the chaos that it kind of brought around it with people asking so many questions about life and existence and their place within the world and Pope Pius instigated Christ the King, because he wanted us to do and then think – so, he said that we could create and we could write and we could read lots and lots of books and we could study.
And that would certainly help and we should do that. But actually, sometimes the easiest way to understand the will of God is to simply subject yourself to it, to do and then to learn. And of course, kingship and being the king, being the master of the house is imagery that exists right the way through scripture. So Pope Pius wasn’t calling on anything new to give us an image upon which we could start to think about how we lived our lives subject to God and subject to his teachings.
Now, if you’ve been watching Daily Mass this week, the readings have really all been about that, about how we subject ourselves to God’s law, how we subject ourselves to God’s teaching, and how we subject ourselves to living a good Christian life. And it’s no accident that this theme occurs just as we come into Advent, as we start to prepare for the coming of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th. It helps us frame our thinking of where we are and who we are and how we live our lives.
And it points us to the scripture and the teachings that help us live those good lives. Earlier this week, I preached a sermon that was fairly fierce in that I said that categorically, we subject our feelings to God and not God to our feelings. We don’t approach scripture with an idea in our mind already. We approach scripture and we approach teaching open to what God has to say to us and genuinely open to what God has to say to us.
And that’s the work of a lifetime. That’s what our religious communities do day in, day out, attempt to find a place where they can be open to what God says to us in our daily lives. And fortunately, we don’t all have to become monks and nuns in order to start to understand what it is God is calling us to do. And in fact, our scripture today gives us an example, gives us a command of exactly what it is we are supposed to do.
If you don’t understand what it means to be subject to God in his kingship, then our gospel tells you exactly what it is. For when I was hungry, you gave me food, when I was thirsty, you gave me drink when I was a stranger, you made me welcome naked and you clothed me sick and you visited me in prison and you came to see me. These are calls for corporal works of mercy, the works that we are called to do in the world.
And there’s no ifs, ands or buts or maybes about this command. There’s no way to interpret this scripture in any other way than if you do these things then you will be part of my kingdom. But, of course, not only doing these things, these things happen because of your faith, these things happen because you believe in Jesus Christ, because you fully accepted him into who you are, because you are open to the action and the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, regardless of the outcome.
So when you see somebody hungry, your reaction should not be, well, are they really hungry or are they going to spend anything that I give them on drugs? Are they going to sell something and go do something else?
You feed them, I’ll give you an example. A wonderful example this week of a of a person from this church who was walking down his high street, saw a man in the street begging and hungry. We’ve all done that in Hayes.
We’ve all walked past the beggars in the street in Hayes. And walked by, not done anything, and this person walked on by and got a few steps further down the high street and stopped, turned on their heel, went back to the person who was begging and said really kindly and very gently, listen, there’s there’s some food at the church. There’s somebody there. Now, if you go there now, you can have a hot drink, you can have some hot food.
And there’s other things there for you as well. Why don’t you go down? And so the man said, OK, I’ll have a little think about it, and then a little later he came down to church and he walked through these doors and he got a hot drink. He got some hot food, he got some clean clothes. And we had a chat and we discovered that this man had just come out of prison and he had been left on the streets with nowhere else to go.
So we made some phone calls and we put some stuff together. And that man found accommodation for that night, supported by a charity specifically set up to help prisoners come back into the world.
That’s what it means to be subject to Jesus Christ, king of the universe, that’s what it means to be subject to his love in the world that’s the practical reality. Doesn’t matter what you feel about that person on the on the street begging, it doesn’t matter what you feel about what the government is or isn’t doing about it, it doesn’t matter what you think the council should be doing about it.
You are commanded by Jesus Christ. To feed the hungry, to give water to the thirsty. To clothed the naked. To visit the sick and the prisoner. That. That is a difference between a sheep and a goat.