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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING

 

CHRIST THE KING

Every time we complete the cycle of the liturgical year, there is a seamless blending from the old year into the new year: so, just as this week we hear of the King who is to come, next week, we begin a New Year and the Season of Advent by more medita­tion on the end of time, and the One who is to come again, as he once came among us. This feast affirms that Christ is King, that he is Judge, that he is Ruler of the kings of the earth. By his own words we know that this is true, as he stands before Pilate and says, “Yes, I am a king.” But his kingship is different: it is not of the same kind as earthly kings, whose empires fade and pass away. His kingship is eternal, and holy lasting until the end of time. Through his love for us, we share in this sovereignty – this holiness – as priests and kings who “serve his God and Father”. We end our year in simple, awe filled praise of the One who is, who was, and who is to come ‑ the Almighty.

The theme of the kingship of Christ should not be misunderstood. Jesus is not king in an earthly sense. The acclamations of the crowds on Palm Sunday and the enthusiastic endorsement of the disciples that Jesus is the Messiah might mislead us. Jesus is king; Jesus is Messiah, because he is the anointed one of God, who comes to do the will of God.

 For the evangelist John, Christ’s kingship is revealed above all on the cross. In the dialogue with Pilate in the Fourth Gospel Jesus points Pilate in the right direction: his kingdom is not an earthly one. He came ‘to bear witness to the truth’. Those who seek the truth are members of his kingdom, which our liturgy today describes in the Preface as ‘a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness. We remember that The Kingdom of God exists in every home where parents and children love each other. It exists in every region and country that cares for its weak and vulnerable. It exists in every parish that reaches out to the needy. The Kingdom of God   happens whenever someone feeds a hungry person, or shelters a homeless person, or shows care to a neglected person. It happens whenever we overturn an unjust law, or correct an injustice, or avert a war.

It happens whenever people join in the struggle to overcome poverty, to erase ignorance, to pass on the faith. The Kingdom of God is in the past (in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth); it is in the present (in the work of the Church and in the efforts of many others to create a world of goodness and justice); it is in the future (reaching its completion in the age to come). May we build the kingdom of God where we are called to be in the here and now of our lives and living. We don’t know how many people witnessed the death of Jesus in Jerusalem. We know that some of those who did were delighted to have him out of the way at last. Others were heartbroken at the death of a truly good man and the shattering into pieces of a dream for something better, a new world order in which love and service would triumph over oppression and hatred. The majority probably just went about their business and reflected that really it is wiser just to keep your head down and say nothing. We can be sure that nobody there on Good Friday  thought they were witnessing the death of Christ the Universal King. His kind of kingship has to be learned and not in palaces nor in schools of diplomacy but among the poor and needy and those whom the world has forgotten. For our king is the servant of the poor and we only belong to his court when we do likewise become servants of the poor.

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33Rd Sunday Of Ordinary Time

This Sunday we celebrate the 33rd Sunday of the year as we head towards the end of the Churches liturgical year at the feast of Christ the King and  then we go into  the Advent and  Christmas seasons (Dare I mention CHRISTMAS?) As always at this time of year, we begin to contemplate the end of the world ‑ a theme that carries us over into next Sunday’s feast Christ the King and then  into Advent. Such a contemplation is not gloomy or morbid: throughout the ages (and especially in the early days) Christians have been utterly posi­tive about the coming end of all things, because we know what will happen  the phrase that gives this away is in the Gospel: “Then… he will send his angels to gather his chosen from the four winds.” This gathering of God’s children to­gether will be a truly wonderful event, when we will all be completely enfolded in that love of God that we hear so much about.

Jesus’ teaching today reminds us that there is nothing really permanent in all the structures of this world. Jesus cuts straight to our desire for immortality with these disquieting words “All will be thrown down.”   These are the words that echo the great prophetic tradition of the Jewish people. No doubt this raised the anxiety of the disciples who press him for answers of “when will this be?” They press him for signs of the end.

In Jesus’ day, and down throughout the ages to our own time, there are plenty of people out there who look for signs, as if knowing when the end will come will somehow change its coming. Our faith tells us there will be a time when all things will come to an end; does knowing exactly when it will happen really give us any mastery over it? I don’t think that it does.

In the larger context of Mark’s gospel, these words from Jesus come just before he enters Jerusalem to be crucified. These words about the destruction of the temple and upheavals to come are a prefiguring of his own death – the very destruction of his own body. “All will be thrown down” is a promise that all things of this world will fall apart, disintegrate and die. However  Jesus reminds us that our job in this present time isn’t to know exactly what will happen, how it will happen, or when it will happen; rather our job is to be faithful, patient and keep awake, because God is working out the plan of salvation and has not abandoned us. Everything will be all right because God is in charge. This isn’t to say things will be easy and that hardships and suffering won’t befall us because they will. It isn’t an empty optimism promising things will get better for our lives; they may or may not be better and more often they may well be worse. It is a promise that God is in charge regardless of anything that happens to us.

Christ promises us that things will be all right because God has the last word. When death on the cross appeared to be the end, it certainly was not God had the last word at an empty tomb on the third day,  the day of resurrection.

Throughout our lives, we will experience death and resurrection many times over as the neatly arranged structures of our lives are thrown down. In faith and because of faith we will not be disappointed god is with us and there will be many times in the future as there have been in the past and are in the here and now of today when we see that everything will be all right because God is in charge and God is  working out the plan of salvation for all of us and has not abandoned us. So let us trust in the Lord who made heaven and earth and remains with us in happy and sad as well as the good and the bad times .

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

 

This Sunday in our Gospel reading we read about the Widows mite, that is the widow who gave the temple authorities her last coins. God does not have favourites”, Saint Paul tells us, but God always makes a special place for the poor, and those whom society would push into second place. In the traditions of Israel God invited the people to have special care for the “widows and orphans” – so the story we hear in today’s Gospel would have a particular resonance. The paradox of Christian faith is this: in giving, we receive. Christ gave everything, sacrificing his very life, and in return received a new and unending life. The widow in the first reading gave her last food to the prophet Elijah, and in return received an endless supply. Today’s readings provide a contrast: the self-assured scribes parading their virtue, and the humble widow offering all she had to live on in terms of food and money.

Jesus attacks the HYPOCRISY of those religious people who make an outward show of virtue, but whose hearts are full of GREED. His words against such behaviour are harsh: they will receive a severe sentence. Such texts as this are sometimes used as a pretext for a general denigration of all the teachers of Judaism. We must bear in mind that the gospels also tell us of good and virtuous scribes and Pharisees of which there were many.

Jesus observes the generosity of the poor widow. Unlike the scribes he has previously criticized, she does not trumpet her virtue and in that same vain neither should we. Almost unnoticed, she gives all she can for the upkeep of the temple of God. The widow in Mark’s gospel represented the truly poor, those who can neither speak for themselves nor fend for themselves. She shared what we had for the good of others and the glory of God. We are called to do as much.

The Church identifies itself with the poor.   Jesus himself proclaimed the Kingdom as the home of the poor. Throughout the centuries, many faithful people have served the less fortunate. Today, we, as Christians, are called to share our time, talent, and treasure with those who cannot speak for themselves.

The corporal works of mercy (feeding the sick, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned and the sick, burying the dead) detail the Church’s love for the poor. These should be at the forefront of Christian activity, not an afterthought. Jesus attacks the hypocrisy and the greed of those who should have known better and he observes the generosity of the poor widow may we be like the poor widow remembering that any love of wealth is inconsistent with our love for the Lord and that we are called to humble service of one another.

31ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

Every priest, and indeed every Catholic, can sometimes find themselves in the position of someone asking “This religion of yours – what’s it all about, really, when you come down to it? What’s the bottom line?” Our temptation might be to start going on at length, which is when we should remember this Gospel. Jesus, asked a very similar question, pins our faith down to two very simple things – love of God and love of neighbour – which together make up the foundation for everything else in our religion. The very simplicity of these two commandments is a gift, so that we can try to live them out each day of our lives. The first commandment, which is also that given by Moses in the first reading, is actually a prayer that our Jewish brothers and sisters still recite every single day.  Jesus, our perfect High Priest, gives us these two commandments to be written in our heads and our hearts, to remember each day, so that we may conduct ourselves in the paths of the Kingdom of God.

How can we find our way through the jungle of the multiple interdicts and commandments of the Law? This is the question a scribe puts to Jesus in all loyalty. From the confession of faith which every pious Jew recites twice a day, Jesus retains first and foremost the commandment to love God. If God is unique, like No one else, the commandment to love him above all is indeed the first.

Jesus also draws the scribe’s attention to another commandment. Although it is second, the love of neighbour is, for Jesus, inseparable from the love of God. In fact, it is by charity that humanity resembles God, that we participate in the very life of God. That is the goal of the Law. There is one unequivocal sign which characterizes those who are not far from the kingdom. It is not their fidelity to religious observance. It is their service of love in its two inseparable faces, God and neighbour.

This saying will quiet those of every age who value the letter of the law above the spirit. It should provoke thought in those institutions where more care is given to order than to love. The conversation with the scribe raises a point very frequently made by the prophets of the Old Testament and by Jesus: love of God and of neighbour is of more importance than ‘holocaust and sacrifice’. There is a profound agreement between Jesus and the teachers of Judaism. The tragedy which follows comes when worldly calculations are seen to be more important than seeking together to do the will of God. It is a situation repeated with dreadful regularity throughout the history of the world right us to ourselves in our modern world. A world where so few have so much and so many barely have enough to live on.

Let’s get back to the question at the start of today’s blogg every Catholic you and me included, can sometimes find themselves in the position of someone asking “This religion of yours – what’s it all about ? A Good  starting point for me in attempting to answer anyone’s questions about  the faith is found in the comment in St Peter’s first letter: ‘Always have your answer ready for people who ask you for the reason for the hope that is in you, but give it with courtesy and respect. The answer to the questions can simply be put in terms of love of God and love of neighbour which together make up the foundation for everything else in our religion.

In our relationship with God, we can ask the same question of ourselves “This religion of ours – what’s it all about what’s most important?” How does that question impact our prayer life, our family life, our social life? What one principle or character trait tells others we are followers of Christ? During this year of faith we should think about our faith and how we would give our answer to anyone who asks the question “This religion of yours – what’s it all about”?

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