Homily of H.E. Archbishop Charles John Brown, D.D., Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines
on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Saint Joseph Parish, Tambo | November 19, 2022
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it gives me so much joy and happiness as your Apostolic Nuncio, as the personal representative of Pope Francis here in the Philippines to be with you this evening here in your beautiful Church and Tambo, St. Joseph Parish in the Diocese of Paranaque with your parish priest, Fr. Kevin Luther Crisostomo and your former parish priest, Fr. Jeff, who is helping us out at this mass this evening.
Tonight, we celebrate the Vigil of the Feast of Christ the King - Christ the King of the entire universe. And also, we come to the last devotional mass to St. Joseph of the year 2022. Your Parish has this beautiful tradition of celebrating on the 19th of every month a devotional mass in honor of your holy patron, the protector of the Catholic Church on Earth, St. Joseph. And today, this evening is the last of those masses.
So in a certain sense, two themes are coming together this evening in our hearts: the theme of St. Joseph, the protector, the faithful spouse of the Virgin Mary; the foster Father of Jesus, who took care of Jesus; St. Joseph, and the idea of Christ as King.
All of us love the Sto. Nino. And many times, we see Sto. Nino dressed as a king, especially in the imagery of the Infant of Prague; we see him with a king's crown, and we see that Jesus is a king. It's beautiful to think that this King, this little King, this infant King, this Sto. Nino was entrusted to St. Joseph - a simple man, a carpenter, a working man, the faithful spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And he who took care of the infant King is also the patron of the entire Catholic Church because the Catholic Church is the beginning. It's the embryo of the Kingdom of God.
The Catholic Church is the Kingdom of God, beginning not completely fulfilled (we will talk about that in a moment). But this infant kingdom is entrusted to St. Joseph.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, wanted to have St. Joseph in every mass celebrated in the Catholic Church. So now we mentioned St. Joseph at every single mass. This is an innovation that Pope Francis asked us to introduce. In every eucharistic prayer now, we mention Our Lady, of course, but also St. Joseph. St. Joseph is the protector of the Church, and the Church is the beginning of the Kingdom of God.
We heard in our second reading this evening St. Paul's letter to the Colossians. Those words written by St. Paul, "Let us give thanks to the Father who has made you worthy to share the inheritance of the saints. In light, he delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his beloved son."
God, the Father, has delivered us from darkness, the darkness of the world, the darkness of despair, the darkness of not knowing our place on this Earth. And he's transferred us into a kingdom, the Kingdom of his beloved Son, the Kingdom of Jesus. And that Kingdom is beginning here on Earth. We are members of a kingdom. All of us become citizens of that Kingdom when we are baptized. When we are baptized, we become part of the Catholic Church, part of the beginning of the Kingdom of God.
This beautiful Kingdom of God here on Earth is only present, we can say, in the form of a seed or an embryo. It's beginning. It's not complete. In a few moments, as we celebrate the Holy Eucharist in the prayer before the eucharistic prayer, the preface that the priests will pray, we will hear the words of the Church in anticipation of the fullness of the Kingdom of God, an eternal universal kingdom, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.
That is the fullness of the Kingdom toward which we are going. We are on a journey, brothers and sisters. Because the Kingdom is already present here, as I said, in the form of a seed or an embryo, but it's not yet complete. And we are walking towards that Kingdom.
And that's what it means to be a church in a synodal process. Synod means "a caravan"; it means "a group of people going forward." And that's what we are doing as Catholics. We are members of a kingdom, but we're not there yet. We're on the way to the Kingdom of God.
But here on Earth, we are anticipating that eternal universal Kingdom, the Kingdom of holiness and grace, the Kingdom of justice, love, and peace. And here on Earth, my dear brothers and sisters in Tambo, here on Earth, we received by God's grace, little, we can say, little foretastes, little previews of what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like. Every time we experience joy and happiness, especially in the unity of our families, all those joys, those passing joys, those beautiful celebrations, and now we're, of course, we're getting ready for the celebration eventually of Christmas, all of these things are little foretastes, little indications of what heaven, the Kingdom of God will be like.
So the Kingdom of God is already present in these small, beautiful signs of joy and happiness in our lives. That's the first way the Kingdom of God is present, even though it's not complete yet.
The second way is when we promote a just and fair ordering of our society. When we have justice in society and peace in society, we are having a beginning of the Kingdom of God; we're having a sign of the Kingdom of God. And that's why the Church works for justice and strives for peace in the world.
Remember, my brothers and sisters, the Kingdom of God will only come at the end when we reach that destination. But we have these little foretastes, these little previews now, as I said, in joy and happiness, but also when we work for justice in society. We shouldn't think that we are going to build a kingdom of God here. We cannot make a perfect society. There's always going to be a mixture of light and darkness, of sin and grace, of happiness and sorrow until we cross the threshold and see Jesus and Mary and Joseph face to face in the Kingdom of God in heaven.
But we can do better on this Earth. We can increase the amount of justice and peace in our societies. We can make life fairer and more equitable for all of us on this Earth. And when we do that, we are kind of anticipating the Kingdom of God.
As I said, the Kingdom of God will come at the end. But there are things that we can do that make it already present in an embryonic form. It means like a little baby in a womb already growing in our society.
So first, in our joys, our happiness is our celebrations; secondly, in promoting justice in society; and third, in the liturgy. Because the most profound experience of the Kingdom of God, my dear brothers and sisters, in Tambo, the most profound experience of the Kingdom of God that we can have on this Earth, is exactly what you and I are doing right now - the celebration of Holy Mass. This is an indication of heaven. This is a preview of heaven. When we get to heaven, we will look back at our experience of celebrating mass and will understand our mass better when we're in heaven. We'll see, "Oh, that's why we did that."
We're all gathered around the altar, gathered around Jesus, praising him, adoring him, receiving Him in Holy Communion. Remember, in a few minutes, the priest will hold the body of Jesus in front of you. And he'll say to you, "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world." And then these next words, which are very important, "Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb".
The Supper of the Lamb is the heavenly banquet, the Kingdom of God - the glorious, joyful celebration of the saints in heaven. And we bring that joyful celebration down to Earth in a certain sense. Or maybe it's better to say, we are drawn up into heaven every time we celebrate mass. And we experience the Kingdom of God, which isn't yet here in its completeness. But we are on the way, and the Eucharist is our food for the journey: our viaticum.
When a person comes to the end of their lives, a priest anoints them with holy oil, but the priest also gives them the Eucharist. And it's called the viaticum. Maybe some of you have heard the word viaticum. The last time you receive the Eucharist. Viaticum comes from via, which means "the way." The last time you receive the Eucharist on this Earth, to carry you into the heavenly Kingdom, the power of Jesus's Body and Blood resurrected, which comes into a person who is coming to the end of their earthly life, and carries them into heaven, carries them on the way into heaven.
So all of these ideas in our mind this evening on the Vigil of the Feast of Christ the King, how we need to rejoice in the signs of the Kingdom that are already with us. We need to work for justice and peace in society. We need to pray the mass and absorb God's grace as it comes to us in the Holy Eucharist.
And then, finally, we think about the Kingdom of God; we think about our Gospel this evening. The gospel the Church chooses for the Feast of Christ the King on this particular Sunday, which is tomorrow. We see Jesus on the cross, don't we? We see the good thief next to him. And the good thief, the repentant thief, says, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." What a beautiful prayer that all of us can pray even at mass, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Let me come into your kingdom". And Jesus responds to the good thief, "Today, I assure you, you will be with me in paradise." Every time we celebrate mass, we are with him in paradise for a moment when we receive him in the Eucharist.
So isn't that a beautiful meditation, a beautiful recollection on the Feast of Christ the King - Jesus on the cross. We can say that the good thief is the first to go into heaven. Remember, Jesus says in the Gospel, "The last will be first, and the first will be last." So it wasn't a holy person. It wasn't a Pharisee. It wasn't a religious leader who accompanies Jesus at that moment but a criminal who, in his last breaths, converts and says "Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom." There is hope for everyone. There is hope for everyone. The doors of the Kingdom are wide open. All we need to do is do what the good thief did. Turn to Jesus, adore Jesus and say, "Jesus, Jesus, I love you; remember me when you come into your kingdom."
So, my dear brothers and sisters, as we celebrate this final devotional mass to your holy Patron, St. Joseph, we ask him to intercede for all of you here in Tambo; we ask St. Joseph and Our Lady to help us to prepare to make a good Advent. Because a week from tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent, and then soon it will be Christmas. We will have that joy of seeing the beginnings of the Kingdom of God in poverty in the stable of Bethlehem. And we'll see St. Joseph, the protector of the Kingdom of God, there with the baby Jesus.
So my brothers and sisters, please pray for me as your papal nuncio. Don't forget to pray for Pope Francis. He always is asking us to pray for him. And let's rejoice in our Catholic faith. And let's say with the good thief, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Transcribed by Gel Katalbas
Cover Photo by Noel Castro, St Joseph Parish Tambo Soccom