Homily for Christ the King
Labels, Labels, Labels! After we were born, we were labelled with a little band around our ankle, in my case, I was labelled “Baby Boy Martin,” before I had an official name. We read the labels on our clothes before we wash them, or we put labels on things to know what it is. And we read the label before we put the pizza in the oven. But there is another meaning and it is this: to assign to a category, especially inaccurately or restrictively, for example, “the critics labelled him a loser.” We all use them… more than what we think. Look at these questions that I found on an application form… check the box (or label) that applies to you:
- Miss, Mrs., Mr., Dr., Or Other
- Single, Married, Divorced or Other
- Male, Female, Transitioning or Other
Why do we label people by what they do, where we live, our religious persuasion, our physical appearance and so on. We have been doing that for centuries. When I was watching some of the COP26 from Glasgow, Scotland, I was thinking of the clan system that they had: Campbell clan got along with the MacDonald clan but these two clashed with the Ferguson clan in some nasty battles. Our history teaches us about the tension between the different countries… look at our own history of Early Canada, the tension between the French and the British, Irish and the English, Christian and Muslims and so on. Unfortunately, not much has changed?
When I was growing up, there was a tension or rivalry between Hampton and Norton. Even within our community of Hampton we were labelled: Hampton Village or Hampton Station or Midway? On the news Friday morning the provincial government is talking about reducing municipalities from 300 down to 190, at the same time, that we will be taxed on the services that we actually have. What does that mean? Not sure yet, but for many years to come, we will still identify from where we come from. Community is very important to us because it is still how we identify ourselves.
We see this throughout Sacred Scriptures: Philistines, Cannanites, the different tribes of Israel, Jewish or Roman and so on. Even Jesus was labelled a prophet, teacher, leader servant to name but a few. But as well, he was labelled a radical, trouble maker, and look what Nathanael said about him: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
What does the Prophet Daniel tell us about labels? In the First Reading, Daniel tells us that he “saw one like a ‘son of man’ coming on the clouds to receive dominion, glory and kingship from the ancient one.” “Son of man,” the key term for Daniel, is one Jesus often used for himself.
We may think of the title or label “son of man” as something great and powerful. However, in reality, the phrase simply refers to a human being, a descendant of Adam, someone who started out not on the clouds of heaven, but in swaddling clothes that his parents had to change like diapers. Without any labels or titles, Daniel’s vision describes the potential of the human race. In other words, all of us.
In the Gospel we have a reading from Good Friday. Pilate is questioning Jesus. “Are you the King of the Jews?” That is one way to ask the central question of the Gospel. All four of our Gospels quote Pilate as asking that question. What is Pilate trying to do? He’s trying to Label Jesus. And what happens when one is labelled? “assign to a category, especially inaccurately or restrictively.”
Many times we make things unnecessarily difficult. Labels only add to the complications. I was elected to the council of priests last year. Since we are still in a pandemic, our meetings are on Zoom. I haven’t brought it to the attention of the others yet, but everyone on that zoom uses titles… Father this and Monsignor that… why are we doing this? We know what we do… but in reality we do not know each other. Because when you start using “titles” instead of “names”, there is an implied limited relationship here…in other words…. it’s safe. I remember not too long ago, at meetings and socials the priests called each other by our first names…. not anymore. This flies in the face of what Jesus said, “no longer do I call you servants but friends…”
Therefore, what does this solemnity or feast mean to us today in 2021? We know Jesus was crucified on the cross. Thankfully, we don’t see someone dying on a cross asking for compassion and mercy, but we do meet the stressed out parent dealing with a fussy child, or the troubled teen trying to find their way, the frustrated co-worker… the forgotten parent or grandparent… this is where we meet our King face to face… in the faces of others in need. However, until we open our hearts and drop the labelling of people by what they do or where they are from or by their current situation and welcome each other with love, than we cannot welcome Jesus… our true God and our King.