Christ the King

Permit me to apologize in advance, for the brevity of this particular post.

Today we celebrate (using the proper liturgical title as listed in the Roman Missal) the “Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, ” or as it is more commonly referred to , the Feast of Christ the King.

That more formal liturgical title perhaps says it all, and very succinctly; King of the Universe. Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, is the central figure to all of salvation history, reuniting all of creation with its creator, God the Father. To accept Him is to accept that reconciliation, that return to the state for which we all came into being. To deliberately reject Him is likewise, to reject that same reconciliation.

In St. John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus’ reply to Pilate’s question as to Jesus’ royal lineage (‘so you are a king?’)

For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

God is truth; God is compassion; God is beauty; God is love.

Everyone who belongs to God listens to Jesus’ voice.

It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Pantokrator_of_Sinai

 

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

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33rd in Ordinary Time (Year B)

We grieve and pray for those in Paris who died in the terror attacks on Friday, and those in Beirut who died earlier in the week, also from terrorist violence. The events of this past week on the international stage show us that death comes for us all, at some point and some time, and most often, not at a time of our own choosing. Just as certainly as death comes for us, so too will be the judgement we will each face after our departure from this life.

But our culture often wants to approach things like ‘judgement’ in a minimalist sense; what is the minimum ‘passing grade’ or what is the least I must do to achieve the maximum result? It is as if we can wait until just before the moment of death and fulfil whatever the least is that we need to do, so that we can approach the throne of God with our passports stamped, because we did what was ‘necessary’.

Perhaps that is the greatest danger in seeking to know the time of, as St. Mark’s Gospel calls it ,’the end which is to come’. If we know when the end is, then we can live as we please up until that time, thinking that we will always have enough time to avail ourselves of God’s mercy.

The truth is, though, while God’s mercy is limitless, the time we have in this world to receive it, to turn towards it, and to show it to others is limited to our lifetimes. We don’t have unlimited opportunities to live for God as if we really mean it. We need to act, and we need to act in the immediate moment because we simply do not know when the ‘end’ will come, either of our own individual lives, or when the ‘end of the world’ will come.

Often groups or people will say they have figured out or calculated or ‘deciphered’ the clues in scripture that give an exact date or time; just as often, these groups and individuals have been proven wrong; the date of ‘the end’ has been predicted by people time and again, and yet here we remain. But Jesus is quite clear when he says ‘about that day or hour no one knows, neither the Angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”…and the Father isn’t telling anyone. Why not?

Because while God’s kingdom in heaven is something we aspire to, to dwell in eternity, the truth is the Kingdom begins in the here and now; in our present circumstances and lives. Jesus repeatedly told those who would listen, that because He had entered into our humanity, our world, He would say ‘the kingdom of heaven is upon you’ – it isn’t just something we plan to act for down the road; it begins now, – the way we treat others, our actions, our words; the way we live out our faith; our relationships with God and others – whether we act upon all that God has given us to guide and lead us closer to Him now – not later – but right now.

Rather than worrying about when the end will come, so we can get ready to spend eternity with God, we should be concerning ourselves with how we are living for God now, so that when the end does come, we will simply be continuing to live for and with Him; living in His mercy, His justice, and His love.

We may not know when the end of time will be; but we do know when the time to start living for the Kingdom of heaven is – that time is now.

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

32nd Sunday Ordinary Time (Year B)

Most often in our Sunday readings from the Lectionary, there is a common thread or link between the first reading the Gospel. On occasion, that link or theme extends through the second reading and binds them together.  This Sunday is one of those times when the thread runs through all three readings; and that thread is trust in God or the virtue of faith in God’s Providence, that God will take care of everything.  This is particularly important for us as Catholics to remember during this month of November as we continue to remember those who have gone before us in faith, and who now, we trust and hope, are in the presence of God.

In the first reading from the first book of Kings, we are presented with an image of the prophet Elijah asking a poor widow for food; she relates how she has so little, only a handful of meal and a little oil, enough for a final meal (or a last supper) for herself and her son, and that after they eat it, they will die; she’s telling Elijah that this is all she and her son have; that once it’s gone, she expects they will starve to death.  But Elijah, speaking with the authority given him by God tells her ‘Do not be afraid’….and after telling her to provide him with some of her last resources for a meal ,he tells her ‘thus says the Lord, the God of Israel’ that the jar of meal and the jug of oil will not be emptied.  So placing her trust in God, she does as Elijah asks, surrendering her last bits of food at the service of a prophet; and what does God do in return? Scripture tells us the jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jar of oil fail for many days….This widow trusted that if she gave all to God, that God would take care of her as she needed.

It is somewhat easy to see a connection between this passage and our Gospel reading: a poor widow giving all that she has to live on…in this scene from St. Mark’s Gospel we hear Jesus pointing out to his disciples a widow putting in two small coins –leptons which were worth less than a penny each- in the Temple treasury; in essence giving her last resources to live on, over to God; he contrasts this with rich people putting in great sums and says that her contribution is ‘more than all those who are contributing to the treasury’…because they are giving from their abundance, leaving themselves with a great deal left over. This widow, on the other hand, is giving over all she has to live on – she is completely detached from this property, giving it over to God in trust – in faith ; trusting that God will provide for her what she needs just as the widow in the first reading;  Notice Jesus doesn’t condemn those who have much – he simply says that those who give all they have- that those who are detached from wealth –from things –  give the greater contribution because they are not holding anything back from God; that nothing is more important than God or entering into relationship with God.

It is this trust and detachment that is really the ideal approach for all Christians, as we express our relationship with God. The entire purpose of our lives is to be reunited with God, and it is in the life we live and how we practice our faith in our daily lives that we express our own trust in God’s providence;  St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Hebrews, in today’s second reading when he writes that Christ has entered into heaven itself, once and for all , and appears ‘in the presence of God on our behalf.” This is the ideal of trust that the Church teaches and that we all continue to strive for.  It’s not something that we automatically have or receive;  it’s a trust that we enter into , little by little, fed by the grace of God

There’s a beautiful little prayer said by the deacon, or the priest during the Mass when the wine and water are mixed before the Eucharistic preface: it’s said quietly so only those at the sanctuary really hear it; but it bears being heard by all in this context; ” By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.”

Just as the widow’s gave up all they had in trust in God, so God, entering into our humanity as Jesus, gives up everything – His very life – to show us by example the result of complete trust in God; living in the presence of God for all eternity; entering into His divinity.

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!