November 26, 2017
Father Murphy walks into a pub in Donegal, and asks the first man he meets, ‘Do you want to go to heaven?’
The man said, ‘I do, Father.’
The priest said, ‘Then stand over there against the wall.’
Then the priest asked the second man, ‘Do you want to go to heaven?’
‘Certainly, Father,’ the man replied.
‘Then stand over there against the wall,’ said the priest.
Then Father Murphy walked up to O’Toole and asked, ‘Do you want to go to heaven?’
O’Toole said, ‘No, I don’t Father.’
The priest said, ‘I don’t believe this. You mean to tell me that when you die you don’t want to go to heaven?’
O’Toole answered, ‘Oh, when I die, yes. I thought you were getting a group together to go right now.’
Today we rejoice in the Solemnity of Christ the King Sunday which marks the end of the Liturgical Year. Next Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent. The Gospel text we have been given is Jesus’ description of the Last Judgment. It comes immediately before the Passion Narrative in Matthew’s Gospel and it is striking because the judgment is based on one simple thing - whether or not we recognize and respond to Christ the King in others, especially in the weakest.
We are challenged by Christ to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to welcome the strangers, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick and the imprisoned. 20 years ago, I went to visit prisoners every Thursday in Hay River, NWT. Most of them were not criminals. They just needed a shelter during the winter months. A friend of mine asked to join me. We went in, chatted and prayed with them, then had free lunch with them. On the way out, my friend said, “I’m so grateful to you father for letting me come into the prison with you.” Why I asked, free lunch? “Well, I’ve fed the poor, given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, visited the sick and even clothed the naked. But only now with your help have I been able to visit prisoners!”
If we all took the Gospel literally, the world would be a much better place, don’t you think?
So many of us, and I include myself, act as if the Gospel is full of metaphors. When faced with hard saying we say to ourselves, “Christ surely didn’t mean that, he didn’t mean for us to take those words literally” and then we put our own interpretation on what he meant.
And yet the Gospel is full of plain speech and he meant for us to try our best to fulfil his words, otherwise he wouldn’t have said what he did. So when we come to the hard teachings of the Gospel such as “Turn the other cheek,” “Take up your cross,” or “Visit the sick and prisoners” we shouldn’t try to water them down or find alternative explanations but just take them at face value.
This week we mark the 13th anniversary of our parish. We rejoice and thank Jesus Christ the King. Looking back over the years we can say that a very great deal has been achieved - for that I’m grateful to God and to you; but we are all well aware that there is still much to do in the field of Evangelization. We are such a diverse group of people, rich in many talents and united around the common purpose of making Christ the King known to the people in this area and around the world. Give God a hand. May God bless us in this task and guide us along the path of humility and service as we do HIS work on earth