Homily Solemnity of Christ the King Cycle A November 26, 2017

I’m sure most of us have memories that stick with us for the rest of our lives. A memory, for us older folks along in years, that may have occurred in our teenage years, or shortly before or just after that age period.
One of those memories for myself was a day I rode home the city bus from school, before the yellow buses were built and clogged up the roads. I rode home from St. Peter’s High School on Main Street in the Main South section of Worcester, before it merged with Marian High School, riding home to Lincoln Street, getting off the city bus each school day in front of St. Bernard’s Church. At the time I believe I was a Freshman, thus 14 years old. And for this bus ride, most days I would have to transfer to another city bus in front of City Hall, to either bus # 26, Lincoln Street, or bus # 19, Burncoat Street.
I remember one day when I got off the bus to transfer in front of City Hall, as I was waiting for # 26 or # 19 to come along for the second leg of my journey home, I saw my grandfather wandering around in the area of City Hall and wondered, “Why is he wandering around here? He has his own car.”
I understand now the reason he was wandering so far from home – he lived right next to Strand’s Ski Shop right up the road. He was wandering because of what we know today as Alzheimer’s Disease. He had lost his sense of direction because of a disease that affects the human brain. My grandfather’s name was Walter Riley. So, if you see me wandering down by City Hall, just bring me back to the rectory.
But this memory stuck with me all these years; the memory of him having lost his sense of direction, due to no fault of his own. It was his body breaking down as his age advanced, drawing closer and closer to the moment of death, when all disease and all pain is finally finished. Except, if we are told to depart to the left by the King of the Universe, the Just Judge, the one who holds all power of our final direction within him.
My memory of my grandfather is a real-life example of losing direction due to circumstances beyond our control. The Gospel we hear proclaimed on Christ the King Sunday presents the possibility of losing direction when direction is very much within our control. The words of Jesus the Just Judge; “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you,” and the words, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” both statements are presently very much within our control. As of now, we have the power and control within our hearts, our minds, our bodies and our souls, to choose either direction.
Whereas someone like my grandfather, and many others today, have lost that capacity as a disease invaded his mind and body, we guard against pretending like we have Alzheimer’s with this expectation of our faith that commands us to love our neighbor. In the present, we possess a solid sense of direction, knowing that we can slip and fall along the way here, but also capable of returning to the good direction of our lives that God calls us to. We’re blessed in our faith to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation that places us squarely back on the path of good spiritual direction.
The Gospel today on this last Sunday of the Church Year, this Gospel familiarly known as Matthew 25, is the most explicit Gospel story of Jesus that gives us the understanding that good works are an absolutely essential dance partner with our Christian faith. That good works are essential to good spiritual direction.
We see this realized as a Parish throughout each year as we support program after program, cause after cause, second envelopes, second collections, Visitation House, hurricanes in Texas and Florida, earthquakes in Haiti. The list is continuous each year. Financial support for worthy causes allows us as a Parish to maintain a sense of good direction before God. It helps to prevent us, as a Christian community, from wandering around City Hall, not knowing where our next step will take us.
As a Parish, we humbly ask the Lord to speak the words to us, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.” While this addresses the communal part of our faith, from the passing of a basket to the forwarding of those funds to a needy cause, the stronger sense of good direction is realized in the personal aspect of our faith.
Do we, as individuals, take the initiative to feed the hungry on our own, understanding that doing so is an extension of my Parish, and the living out of my daily faith in Christ? The same for giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming a stranger, clothing the ill-clad, visiting the sick, patiently listening to someone who needs to vent, and so forth.
The words, “Come, you who are blessed,” or “Depart from me, you accursed,” are determined by our present sense of direction as connected to our personal faith in Christ the King. Our sense of direction as a Parish, our communal faith, will take us only so far toward the words, ‘Come, you who are blessed.” But it’s the personal dimension of faith, what we do in our personal lives outside of these walls, that does away with the possibility of wandering around City Hall. The good works Jesus puts forth in this Gospel dispels the wandering.
God bless my grandfather, my namesake, who died not long after carrying his cross of Alzheimer’s. Prior to his losing his sense of direction beyond his control, he had a wonderful sense of direction in his personal faith. So wonderful that Fr. Connors did his Funeral Mass here in 1976. Now is the time for us to have the same sense of good direction in our personal faith in Christ the King.