Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thirty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Tim

Christ the King
November 25, 2012
Daniel 7:13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18:33-37

            The Feast of Christ the King is the final Sunday of the Christian year and it concerns itself with the return of the Lord Jesus to inaugurate the final judgment of our moral choices. It becomes our day to check in on ourselves to see how faithfully we are imitating the life of Jesus and make needed amends. It gives us a chance at a dry run. All of creation will be called to account for how much they have loved others and the righteous will be taken up into heaven as a reward for their fidelity.

          The feast is relatively new to the church calendar as Pius XI instituted it in 1925 as a response to the rise of secularism when church leaders thought the role of Christ was becoming displaced by modern ideas. With the rise of dictatorships in Europe, Pius XI thought that the masses of people were getting pulled into the orbits of earthly leaders with new types of secular-based governments. Mass attendance was at a low point and respect for Christ and the Church was waning. This feast was to bolster a strong image of the church and remind everyone that Christ still reigned supreme while other governmental leaders would pass away, yet the image of a strong, kingly Christ depicted by Pius XI is diametrically opposed to the one presented in the readings. The king we know works in very different ways.

            The Daniel reading shows us what the mere presence of Jesus does for the world. In the preceding verses, the four beasts of the apocalyptic vision are destroyed. They’ve lost their dominion on earth, which are signified as the four successive pagan empires of the Babylonians, Medes, Persians, and the Greeks. These beastly images come from the great abyss below, that is, the power of evil, but the image of the one like a Son of Man comes from above “with the clouds of heaven.” This Son of Man represents the holy ones of the most high and he cares about the faithful people who served God all life-long. He becomes a messianic king whose dominion never ends.

            In the Gospel, Pilate asks Jesus about his kingship and they get into a discussion about what constitutes “truth.” We know that Jesus testifies to the truth and that the subset of Jews who were in opposition to the Christians of John’s community has already rejected the truth. Pilate distances himself from the Jews whom he despises, and Jesus distances himself from both the Jews and Pilate. Jesus answers the question to separate his kingship from anything that could threaten Pilate, since he claims that it can be proved that his kingship is not of this world. He has no followers fighting to secure his release. Jesus must testify to the truth because he was sent as King, but Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” shows that he is ranked with that subset of Jews as one who cannot hear the voice of Jesus. Therefore, he cannot hear the truth revealed in his words.

            Pilate though understands something at a gut level. He has Jesus flogged and mocked as king at the center of his trial and, in this Gospel, Jesus appears as king for the rest of the proceedings. Pilate is then caught by his actions and has to state that Jesus is king otherwise he would be labeled a traitor to Caesar because in the empire there can only be one king. In the end, Pilate writes an inscription over the crucified Jesus so that everyone can see that Jesus is “the King of the Jews.” Pilate publicly and universally affirms the truth about Jesus that the opponents of Jesus desperately seek to reject: He is the King. Truth always emerges, and truth is always found in love and suffering.

            Who is this king for us? The chapter from Revelation, our second reading tells us that our king is the one who loves us and frees us. From his suffering he was able to love us. Truth becomes visible once again. This is not a king concerned with his own power or dominion; this is a king who uses his power to free us from anything that keeps us separate from his love. The magnetism of his love draws us to him and makes everything right. This is a king who speaks gently, by softly inviting us into his realm, who encourages us the best out of us, who “sees, and hears, and knows us,” and will stand in the pits of our suffering with us – just so we can know he is there with us and for us. This King abides by us and is nearer to us than we imagine. When we know his love, we know the truth: He is our King and our Lord. Let us give thanks to our King today. Alleluia.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Near the conclusion of the Book of Revelation, the Lamb stood on Mount Zion with 144,000 holy ones who were unblemished in their devotion to the Father. One who looked liked the Son of Man sat on a throne and carried a large sickle for the time to reap the harvest had come. Seven angels from the seven last plagues carried out God’s fury. On the sea of glass and fire stood those who had won victory over the beast. They sang the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. Another angel with great authority cried to the earth, “Fallen, Fallen is Babylon.” A different angel picked up a stone and hurled it at Babylon until light, life, and song be snuffed out of the city. The multitudes in heaven sang, “Alleluia! Salvation, glory, and might belong to our God.” ~ The Feast of Andrew the Apostle teaches us to confess that Jesus is Lord and he has been raised from the dead. If you believe this, you will be saved.

Gospel: At the temple, Jesus sees the wealthy putting money into the treasury. He also notices a poor widow who makes her offering and Jesus is delighted with her generosity. Jesus tells the people that the elegantly adorned temple will be one day be thrown down in rubbish. They ask when it was to happen and he tells them to pay attention to the signs of the times. Nations will rise against nations and powerful earthquakes and natural destruction will usher in those disastrous times. Then the leaders and people will seize you and persecute you because you believe in Jesus. The spirit of Jesus will come to your aid in those times of trouble and you will be protected. When armies surround Jerusalem, desolation will be at hand. Scripture is fulfilled after terrible calamities. People will either choose or deny him. Then the Son of Man will come in a cloud with power and great glory.   ~ On the Feast of Andrew, Matthew shows us that Andrew was the one who brought his brother Simon to Jesus at the Sea of Galilee.

Saints of the Week

November 25: Catherine of Alexandria, martyr, (d. 310) is said to have been born in Egypt to a noble family. She was educated and converted to Christianity because of a vision. She refused to marry a man arranged to be her husband by the emperor, and she denounced him for persecuting Christians. She was arrested, tortured, and killed.

November 26: John Berchmans, S.J., religious (1599-1621), was a Jesuit scholastic who is the patron saint of altar servers. He was known for his pious adherence to the rules and for his obedience. He did well in studies, but was seized with a fever during his third year of philosophy and died at the age of 22.

November 29: Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos, S.J., religious (1711-1735) was the first and main apostle to the devotion of the Sacred Heart. He entered the novitiate in Spain at age 14 and took vows at 17. He had mystical visions of the Sacred Heart. He was ordained in January 1735 with a special dispensation because he was not old enough. A few weeks after celebrating his first mass, he contracted typhus and died on November 29th.

November 30: Andrew, apostle (first century) was a disciple of John the Baptist and the brother of Simon Peter. Both were fishermen from Bethsaida. He became one of the first disciples of Jesus. Little is known of Andrew's preaching after the resurrection. Tradition places him in Greece while Scotland has incredible devotion to the apostle.  

December 1: Edmund Campion, S.J., (1540- 1581), Robert Southwell, S.J., (1561-1595) martyrs, were English natives and Jesuit priests at a time when Catholics were persecuted in the country. Both men acknowledge Queen Elizabeth as monarch, but they refused to renounce their Catholic faith. They are among the 40 martyrs of England and Wales. Campion was killed in 1581 and Southwell’s death was 1595.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      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 the arrest and imprisonment of St Claude la Colombiere. 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.
·      Nov 29, 1773: The Jesuits of White Russia requested the Empress Catherine to allow the Letter of Suppression to be published, as it had been all over Europe. "She bade them lay aside their scruples, promising to obtain the Papal sanction for their remaining in status quo.
·      Nov 30, 1642: The birth of Br Andrea Pozzo at Trent, who was called to Rome in 1681 to paint the flat ceiling of the church of San Ignazio so that it would look as though there were a dome above. There had been a plan for a dome but there was not money to build it. His work is still on view.
·      Dec. 1, 1581: At Tyburn in London, Edmund Campion and Alexander Briant were martyred.