THE HEALING TOUCH OF THE UNIVERSAL SHEPHERD-KING: HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD.

Shepherd King

The origin of Kingship dates back to the moment human beings began to live together in communities. At a given point in time when it became inevitable to have someone at the helm of the affairs of a given cluster of people, the idea of a leader with royal candour and dexterity became almost normative. Earlier organized kingship structures could be found among the dwellers within the regions around of the Ancient Near East like Mesopotamia, Babylon and Egypt. From the earliest descriptions of Kings, they were not just persons who had political powers over others, they were also spiritual leaders if you like priests and prophets. A typical instance could be found in the ancient king of Salem know as Melchizedek (King of righteousness) who blessed Abraham and received his tithe (Gen. 14:18-20). Kings were therefore everything to the people. When the king fails everyone fails; of course if a king is killed in a war it meant that the battle has been lost no matter the strength of the army. Hence the king is seen as a source of growth, healing and development for the people.

The history of the world is filled with the rising and falling of Kings and Kingdoms. We are conversant with the Pharaohs of Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon during the exilic experience of Daniel’s time. Down the path of history we know of Alexander the Great whose reign was felt around the known world of his time, we know of Alfred the Great, Darius the Great, Charlemange, Louis xiv and others. Many empires rose and fell: Roman Empire, Spanish Empire, and the Empires of France and Britain.

In modern history we know of Haile Selassie (the 225th and last emperor of Ethiopia), Adolf Hitler (the Nazi machinery of the holocaust), Idi Amin (the ruthless self-acclaimed field Marshal and president for life of Uganda). In contemporary history we know of Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Mubarack of Egypt and Mommah Gaddaffi who organized his crowning as king of kings of Africa before he was killed by his own people. There are still some destructive Kingdoms springing up in various places as ideologies like Al Qaeda, ISIL, Boko Haram and a good number of others. Like all other Kingdoms they will crumble.   In other areas of life like entertainment we have had Kings and their respective kingdoms. Michael Jackson was the world acclaimed King of POP music but his Kingdom crashed with his death on June 25, 2009.  One common denominator is that all these kingdoms and their kings crumbled at some historic points.

Our celebration today is focused on Jesus Christ the Shepherd-King. He is the universal King; if you like the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev.19:16). His Kingship need not be contested:

  • Psalm 24:7. Tells us that he is the king of glory.
  • Isaiah 9:6-7. Calls him our ruler, the Wonder Counselor, Mighty Father, Prince of Peace whose kingdom will have no end!
  • Zechariah 9:9. Calls him our King that rides humbly, triumphantly and victoriously on a donkey.
  • Zechariah 14: 9. Calls him the King of all the earth.
  • Matthew 2:2. Calls him the King of the Jews.
  • Luke 1: 33: Says that his kingdom will have no end.
  • Luke 23:38. His executioners confirmed him as the King of the Jews.
  • John 1: 49. Calls him the King of Israel.
  • 17:14. Calls him Lord of Lords King of Kings.

This liturgical year however draws our attention to his Kingship from the point of view of a Shepherd. If we run an attentive search into the bible we will discover that most of the great men who had encounters with God were Shepherds: Abel, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Jacob’s twelve sons, Moses, Gideon, David, Amos, the shepherds who announced the birth of our Lord. Among all these, I wish to single out David who was also a King and connect him to our Lord Jesus Christ the universal King.

From the beginning of the narrative about our Lord Jesus Christ the angel told Mary: “the Lord God will make him a king as his ancestor David and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob for ever, his Kingdom will NEVER END”( Luke 1:32-33). This can also be confirmed from what God told David in 2nd Samuel (7:16). God said: “You will always have descendants, and I will make your kingdom last for ever. Your kingdom will NEVER END.” Here we can see that God’s promise to David actually got its fulfilment in our Lord Jesus Christ who is the only king whose kingdom will NEVER END. David was a good shepherd who protected and provided for the sheep (1 Sam. 17:34-36). But our Lord Jesus Christ beyond David is THE GOOD SHEPHERD who laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11-18).

The status of a Shepherd-King is a very interesting one. To my mind God consistently chose shepherds to undertake some leadership roles because of the nature of their job which is mostly that of care-giving. Ordinarily kings are known to be dispensers of severe judgement; of course when an issues gets to the king people expect the last judgement that would bring about punishment for one side and vindication on the other side. However with our Lord Jesus Christ as the Shepherd-King there is a balancing between LOVE and JUSTICE. In fact love goes out most before justice. The love dispensation brings about HEALING. That is actually why our Lord came, to heal us from the wounds of sin. The word of God says that by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

In the First Reading (Ezk.34:11-12.15-17) we are presented with the image of a shepherd who goes all out to search for the sheep that are lost. The image of the lost sheep in the Gospel of Luke (15) comes out very well here. There is a great difference between looking for something and searching for something. To search or seek is deeper than looking. From the First Reading, we are given the idea that our Lord the Shepherd-king goes all out seek for his flock and bring them back from where they are scattered abroad. We are like the sheep scattered because we got attracted to other things. We are scattered because we are disconnected from the source of life and like he said in the John (15:5) cut off from him we can do nothing.

If we go deeply into the First Reading, we will discover that the Shepherd-King has a great relief package for us. He is not interested in judging us and condemning us forthwith. He is rather interested in doing all the needful; giving us all the healing effects we needed.

I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will watch over; I will feed them in justice.

From what we have above, the Shepherd-King is more interested in the welfare of the flock than any other thing. He would do all that are practicable to rescue the sheep. In fact the tool kit is loaded. It is only when the sheep proves unteachable, unreachable, untenable and un-saveable that justice will finally come in as was shown more clearly in the Gospel Reading (Matt.25:31-46) where the Shepherd-king will finally separate the sheep from the goats. It is very important to note here that the sheep that falls short of expectation will become a goat. This is because there was never a consideration for goats. It has been sheep all the way hence to be unsaved is equivalent to being a goat. The logic is clear; the Shepherd-King has nothing to do with goats but only sheep.

Today, we are marching out to tell the whole world that we have a king who is also our shepherd. We are going out to proclaim and acclaim his Kingship. We are going out confess and profess that there is no King like him. We are at the same time challenged to allow him to be the ultimate king in our lives. It is not untrue that most of us have various kings and kingdoms that are ruling and occupying our lives. In our day and age money for instance has constituted itself as a king as many run after it as if their lives came from it. The same is applicable to immorality, fashion and materialism generally. In the area of modern means of communication and entertainment the story is more disheartening as telephones, television and similar technologies have become prominent kings and kingdoms for many. There may be need for us to pause and ask ourselves what or who is really ruling in our lives. Our sincere answer can be of a great benefit to us as we celebrate this solemnity of Christ the universal king.

As imitators of Christ, we are also challenged to learn from him. Just as he enjoined us in the Gospel of Matthew (11:29) to learn from him for he is meek and humble. Learning from him means that we should dispense love and seek out others as he continues to do for us. In fact we are being called to represent and reproduce him in the ministry of healing. As the Shepherd-King seeks us out and heals us, so are we called upon to seek out one and other and also effect healing on one another. There is no doubt that the world is sick in various ways (in fact all of us are sick in numerous ways) and healing has become very essential and needful. The healing of the body by providing for the physical need of those who are experiencing abject lack. Healing the minds of those who are going through mental suppression and oppression. Healing the spirit of those who lack divine touch and presence in their lives. Let us join our voices to that of the late King of Pop music to sing:

There’s a place in your heart
And I know that it is love
And this place could be much
Brighter than tomorrow
And if you really try
You’ll find there’s no need to cry
In this place you’ll feel
There’s no hurt or sorrow
There are ways to get there
If you care enough for the living
Make a little space, make a better place

Heal the world
Make it a better place
For you and for me and the entire human race
There are people dying
If you care enough for the living
Make a better place
For you and for me………..

There are people dying

If you care enough for the living

Make a better place

For you and for me

For you and for me

Heal the world…..

Have a blissful celebration of Christ the Universal King.

Fr. Bonnie

(fatherbonny@hotmail.com)

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