Solemnity of Christ the King
Installation of Fr. Michael DeAscanis
November 21, 2021
St. Louis, Clarksville/St. Francis, Fulton
St. Louis the King – Christ the King
I am very happy to return to this church for the installation of your new pastor. Fr. DeAscanis brings to his new responsibilities qualities of mind, heart, and spirit that suit him to lead vibrant communities of faith, worship, and service such as St. Louis here in Clarksville and St. Francis of Assisi in nearby Fulton. Fr. DeAscanis brings a wealth of experience to his new responsibilities, having served as Director of Priestly Vocations, and for the past eight years, as Pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish in Linthicum Heights. Thank you for welcoming Fr. DeAscanis so warmly and thank you, Fr. DeAscanis for accepting the call to serve these parishes, including St. Louis School.
This installation takes place on the Solemnity of Christ the King, and in a parish church named for a king, St. Louis IX, King of France. St. Louis IX ruled an earthly kingdom while belonging to the Kingdom of God, that Kingdom, which as Jesus says in today’s Gospel, is “not of this world”. Indeed, St. Louis the King devoted his life and his reign to Christ the King, whom he loyally served through a life of prayer and penance, and by doing all that he could to reform and build up the Church in his realm. Through God’s grace, St. Louis reigned with a heart that was pure and simple not unlike the heart of St. Francis of Assisi who lived the Beatitudes so winsomely. Each in their own way, St. Louis and St. Francis, stand as shining examples of saints who lived in this passing world with hearts set on the world that is yet to come.
On an occasion such as this, I could provide you with a pastor’s “job description”, and explain the many facets of his role – but I think you already know that. Instead, I will simply say that your pastor’s most fundamental role is to lead you, as he himself must be led, towards the Kingdom of God. Every part of his ministry and every dimension of his life must have but one aim: to help us ‘live in this passing world with our hearts set on the world to come’ – in a word, to help us truly belong to Christ and to his Kingdom.
Christ and His Kingdom
Let us, then, reflect for a moment on Christ and on his Kingdom. Today’s Gospel recounts the exchange between Christ and Pontius Pilate. Before condemning him to death, Pilate asked Jesus if he were a king. Now, Pilate’s idea of kingship was Caesar Augustus, and so he was asking Jesus if he considered himself to be a rival to the Roman Emperor. In a word, Pilate thought in solely political terms; he had no other frame of reference.
Jesus’ answer must have baffled Pilate, a man thoroughly ‘in and of’ the world. Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is ‘not of this world’. His kingdom is the inner life of God, where he shared from all eternity with God the Father and the Holy Spirit a splendid communion of truth love, life, & love, a communion of life and love which is origin of all that exists, including ourselves. In other words, Jesus stands before Pilate as ‘the faithful witness’ to the Father’s love. Indeed, Jesus goes on to tell Pilate that the reason he came into the world was ‘to testify to the truth’, and in so doing, to make us members of his Kingdom. Jesus came among us to invite us to share in that glorious communion of life and love, to be a part of that Kingdom which he himself personifies and epitomizes. With sovereign freedom, in loving obedience to the Father’s will, Jesus then proceeded to lay down his life to redeem us of our sins, to free us from sin – sin which, by its very nature, is incompatible with God’s love. To reign with Jesus is to love as God loves and as the redeemed souls in heaven love.
Christ the King Stands Before Us
The procurator Pilate would not have been even a footnote in history had not the Sovereign Lord stood before him in his praetorium, his palace. As it is, countless people will utter Pilate’s name in the Creed until the end of time. And indeed, we need to take Pilate seriously, for now Christ stands before us. As the British say, Christ is “in the dock”; he is waiting for us to decide. Will we be nominal Christians, wholly wrapped up in our own concerns and desires? Or will we allow Christ to occupy to the centermost position in our minds and hearts, such that amid our earthly endeavors our hearts really are set on the world to come? How easily party politics can eclipse Jesus’ Kingdom of truth & life, justice & peace. How easily earthly pursuits cause us to lose our hunger and thirst for holiness. On this Christ the King Sunday 2021, the Lord awaits our answer, yours and mine.
The role of your pastor, together with his fellow priests, deacons, and co-workers, is to enable us to answer Christ in the affirmative, with the words: “I am totally yours”. Saying such beautiful words, of course, is not enough. To belong to Christ and to his Kingdom requires that you and I surrender to the King. We must allow the Lord to dethrone the imperious demands of our wills, surrendering to the Lord our idols, as well as our sins and our shame, allowing the Lord who speaks ‘the words of everlasting life’ to drown out that inner voice of ours which is constantly complaining, judging, and criticizing, allowing the Sovereign Lord to conquer that part of us which is lonely, angry, fearful, allowing the Lord to open our eyes to himself disguised in the poor and the vulnerable. This is how we find our way into the heavenly kingdom while still on earth, both as individuals but also as worshipping communities.
By preaching and teaching, by celebrating the Mass and Sacraments reverently, by educating and inspiring young people, by reaching out in time of need and sorrow, by opening hearts and minds to the presence and needs of the poor and oppressed – in all these ways and more, the pastor and his co-workers invite us and help us to be more and more firmly rooted in that kingdom which is “not of this world” – that kingdom that will remain after the heavens and the earth have passed away. Yet, even that is not enough. Just as Jesus stood before Pilate as the faithful witness of his Father’s truth and love, so too your pastor and his co-workers must also be faithful witnesses to Christ by a lives of prayer, utter devotion to the Church’s mission, and unfailing pastoral love, in a word, by a life of deep integrity, trustworthiness, and compassion.
And let me be clear, none of this is a one-way street, dear parishioners. You do not come to Mass each Sunday merely to receive something, precious as it is. Rather, in receiving the Lord in the Eucharist, in having your sins forgiven, in having the love of God poured into your hearts through the Holy Spirit, you own gifts and your own talents are being revealed and unlocked, so that you can and should take an active role in the mission of your parishes and an even more active role in helping to frame a world that is more aligned with the Kingdom which Jesus introduced into this old world, “a kingdom of truth and life … holiness and grace … justice love and peace.” Thank you, Fr. DeAscanis for answering the calling to lead these parish communities, and thank you, dear parishioners, for your allegiance to Christ and to his Kingdom. And may God bless you and keep you always in his love!