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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Feast of Christ the King - Last Sunday (34th) of Liturgical Year

November 22, 2009

The opening prayer for the Solemnity of Christ the King contains the following beautiful words: “Open our hearts, free the entire world to rejoice in his peace, to glory in his justice, to live in his love. Bring all together in Jesus Christ.” These words convey to us that today’s feast is not about a harsh judgment condemning our world and our tendency to sin, but that it is about a call from the Eternal King who has an overarching desire to bring all to himself in the merciful love of God. It is a day of great and tender rejoicing because the one who creates us, loves us, redeems us and sustains us promises to call us home to himself. We belong to God who cares for us like the perfect parent cares for one’s child. Our God, who loves us with such a longing, will provide us with the most intimate embrace that we could ever imagine. In this last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Compassionate One will gather us all together to remain with him for eternity.

The reading from the apocalyptic Book of Daniel points to a mysterious person, a son of Man, who receives absolute, yet divine authority from the Ancient One. His authority is to govern the entire world with a vision that transcends time and place. The Evangelist, John, portrays Jesus as a King whose authority is not from this world, but has jurisdiction over this world, but not in the manner of earthly kings. Sadly, in John’s Gospel, the king of the universe is not to be immediately recognized by the world’s standards and is fated to suffer death at the hands of those who cannot grasp this transcendent reality.

Ironically, this feast was instituted in 1925 to convey to the secular world that Christ is the ultimate king. At that time, the church as it was facing pressures in the modern culture took a stand over and against the forces of the world rather than inserting itself into the dialogues of the day. However, our prayers and readings for the day remind us that God created the world and has placed Christ as the merciful king over it and the universe. The world is good and is redeemed by the Christ event. Christ does not stand over and against the world, but can be found in every aspect of the world. May he rejoice in the extensive amount of goodness that he finds.

Quote for the Week

The first reading for the Thanksgiving Day Mass is taken from the Book of Sirach and is a thoughtful prayer of gratitude to God for the many blessings bestowed upon us.

“And now, bless the God of all, who has done wondrous things on earth; who fosters people’s growth from their mother’s womb, and fashions them according to his will! May God grant you joy of heart and may peace abide among you; May God’s goodness toward us endure in Israel to deliver us in our days.” Sirach 50:22-24

Themes for this Week’s Masses

The church turns to the apocalyptic literature of Daniel during this last week of the year and it highlights the testing of Daniel and his three Judean colleagues who withstood the favor and testing of the Chaldean king. These four men resisted defilement by eating the foods of Gentiles, but the king still found them to be among the worthiest in his court. With his visions, Daniel interpreted the king’s dream – his kingdom would fall and the kingdom of heaven will be firm and will last forever. Daniel tells his vision to Nebuchadnezzar’s son, King Belshazzar, further stating that the Chaldean kingdom will collapse and be divided among their enemies. A further vision tells of the Ancient One, a son of man, who will come to rule the world as all the terrifying beasts and powers of this world will pay homage to the Ancient One.

As Jesus’ journey in Luke concludes, we hear again about the poor widow who drops in two small coins into the Temple treasury as a sign of her charity and fidelity to her faith. Jesus then instructs his disciples to figure out how to read the signs of the times and to be attentive to his voice and also to be aware that one’s fidelity to the word of God will bring about persecution and death. He tells us the kingdom of God is near, but while much passes away in this transitory life, his words will endure. Be vigilant and cherish his words.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Pope Clement I, martyr, was the fourth pope of the church. He navigated through some disorder in the church at Corinth when some elder priests revolted and were deposed. Columban, abbot, was an Irish monk who became a missionary to France to establish monasteries. He opposed the King’s polygamy in 610 and was expelled. He continued his work in Switzerland and Italy. Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, S.J. priest and martyr, is also remembered for his witness in Mexico as an undercover priest because public worship was forbidden (1926.) He administered the sacraments, presided at Mass, and served the poor. As he was being executed without benefit of a trial, he shouted out, Viva Cristo Rey! (Long Live Christ the King!)

Tuesday: Andrew Dung-Lac, priest, was martyred with his companions in Vietnam in 1839. Over 130,000 Christians, mostly native-born, were killed in Vietnam from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Wednesday: Catherine of Alexandria, martyr, is remembered for her conversion to Christianity because of a vision. She refused to marry a man that the Emperor arranged for her and she condemned the Emperor’s persecution of Christians. For that she lost her life.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Nov 22, 1633. The first band of missionaries consisting of five priests and one brother embarked from England for Maryland. They were sent at the request of Lord Baltimore. The best known among them was Fr Andrew White.
• Nov 22, 1791: Georgetown Academy opened with one student, aged 12, who was the first student taught by the Jesuits in the United States.
• Nov 23, 1545: Jeronimo de Nadal, whom Ignatius had known as a student at Paris, entered the Society. Later Nadal was instrumental in getting Ignatius to narrate his autobiography.
• Nov 23, 1927: Fr Michael Augustine Pro, SJ was executed by leaders of the persecution of the Church in Mexico.
• Nov 24, 1963: John LaFarge, a pioneer advocate of racial justice in the United States, died.
• Nov 25, 1584: The Church of the Gesu, built in Rome for the Society by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, was solemnly consecrated.
• Nov 26, 1678: In London, Claude la Colombiere was arrested and imprisoned. He was released after five weeks and banished.
• Nov 27, 1680: In Rome the death of Fr Athanasius Kircher, considered a universal genius, but especially knowledgeable in science and archeology.
• Nov 28, 1759: Twenty Fathers and 192 Scholastics set sail from the Tagus for exile. Two were to die on the voyage to Genoa and Civita Vecchia.

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Creator Lord, all-powerful giver of life, your gifts of love are countless and your goodness infinite. On Thanksgiving Day we come before you with gratitude for your kindness: open our hearts to concern for our fellow brothers and sisters in need, - the marginalized, neglected, forgotten, and the very least in our society, especially those who hunger and thirst for real food and drink - so that we may share your gifts in loving service. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Notable Book

Three Cups of Tea is a very good story about a young man named Greg Mortensen who, after a failed mountain expedition in Central Asia, recognizes the need for education, especially of girls in Afghanistan and Asia. He devotes his life’s work toward the building up of these schools and as a result begins to build a road to peace. Ignorance is the great enemy of peace. I recommend this book because it is a good story, yet I find, because of the writing style, it is a sluggish read.

A Serious Movie

Billed as a comedy, A Serious Man, does not send you out of the movie theatres laughing – or even in a good mood. It does drive you to your Bible to re-read the Book of Job because it is a contemporary adaptation of the ancient book that is set in the 1960s. It is a story of a middle-age man whose life is going rather well until the ancient curse heaped upon his forebears comes back to take away all that is meaningful to him. It is a worthwhile film to view, but it evokes more pondering than it does laughter.

End-of-Year Catechesis

Check out earlier posts on this blog that tell of our Christian belief about the communion of saints, the end times, the resurrection of the body, and of last things.

Also, stay tuned this week for a definition of two competing theological viewpoint in the church: the Classicist and the Historical-Mindedness approaches. Fortunately, the church is large enough to encompass these points of reference with ease. It helps to understand the various methodologies of our faith that we find in the contemporary church.

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