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Terrance KleinNovember 22, 2023
Detail from “Light of the World” by William Holman Hunt, 1851-1856 (Wikipedia Commons)

A Homily for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Readings: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28 Matthew 25:31-46

Remember the saying—you may have heard a grandparent use it—that the customer is always right? But as a customer today, not being right is the least of our problems. Customers are not even recognized as people. We have become account numbers.

And good luck finding a number to call. They are extraordinarily difficult to locate. If you do dial, do not expect to be received as a valued customer. No one will greet you to affirm your relationship with the vendor. Instead, you will encounter a computer program designed to funnel your concern into cubbyholes the company recognizes.

To place an order, press 1.

To inquire about the status of an order, press 3.

For assistance using an online portal, press 4.

For all other inquiries, contact us at www….

To speak to a customer representative, stay on the line, but we are currently experiencing a high volume of calls. We can call you back someday, or you can sacrifice the next hour and stay on the line.

When someone does come on the line, your name, the one that personalizes you, is irrelevant. You will be asked to identify yourself by your account or order number. You are a number.

“Hello, this is GS902 dash 415 dash…. Did you want my dashes? My mother only used them when I was in trouble.”

To be fair, corporations did not decide to demean our dignity as persons. The only way to receive someone as a person is to be one yourself, and corporations are not people. Even those who work for them labor for an entity, not a boss. Who decided to remove our humanity from the process? Some amorphous entity.

And one could argue that customer service representatives are doubly robbed of their humanity. They are not allowed to treat us as people, and sometimes, in our frustration, we do not treat them as such either.

The Solemnity of Christ the King is young. It was only established by Pope Pius XI in 1925, in the wake of the First World War, the greatest calamity the world had witnessed in centuries.

The Great War did not care who you were, how you identified yourself or what you wanted from life. Even those charged with governing found themselves drawn into a cyclone of destruction they could not control. At first, people marched off to give their lives for a king, kaiser, czar or constitution. By war’s end, it did not matter. No one was in control. People just died.

The war made monarchs a dated concept, but the genius of Pope Pius was to recognize and claim for Christ, a critical aspect of monarchy. The monarch is a person, just like those who are ruled. Unlike corporations and commonwealths, a person looks you in the face, listens to you and addresses you as a person.

Christ comes as king. He comes with face and voice and heart. Come what may, he will listen, and he will care.

To be clear, kings and queens were seldom saints. They could be venal and small-hearted. But for several centuries of European life, in virtually every capital city of the continent, ordinary men and women marched out to meet their monarchs in person.

Why did they do it? Because the monarch was a person, someone who could look you in the face, listen to you and address you as a person. People assume responsibility; corporations cannot.

A monarch might receive the petition with duplicity. Sometimes those marching were not allowed to meet the monarch. They might even be massacred en route or just outside the palace. Yet ordinary people kept marching in the hope that encountering a person, not an impersonal force, would make all the difference.

During the Blitz, King George VI toured the decimated blocks of East London. He could not stop the bombs from falling, yet it meant everything that he and his wife Queen Elizabeth stood among their people. Likewise, the first crucial test of King Charles III came when he addressed the United Kingdom and the commonwealth upon the death of his mother. Charles met the challenge by being a king who could grieve for, and with, his people.

In Christ, God encounters us as a person, not an impersonal force, fulfilling the ancient prophecy.

Thus says the Lord God:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep (Ez 34:11-12).

Our prayers are not addressed to whomever or whatever might listen or care. We know the face of the person who receives them and carries them to his Father. However they might be answered, we know that another person has heard them.

And come the end, our very fate belongs to a face. It will not be allotted by algorithm. We will stand before a judge, a person who listens and then decides.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (Mt 25:31-33).

No one likes corporate customer service. Whatever the outcome, we are not received as persons. And governments long ago abandoned any pretense of helping flesh and blood people.

How life has come full circle in these latter days! We would not serve God. Instead, we have enslaved ourselves to our faceless creations.

But Christ comes as king.

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
When everything is subjected to him,
then the Son himself will also be subjected
to the one who subjected everything to him,
so that God may be all in all (1 Cor 15:25-27).

Christ comes as king. He comes with face and voice and heart. Come what may, he will listen, and he will care.

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