The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ King
Nov. 21, Luke 25: 35-43
“Pilate said to him (Jesus), “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” …… Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” (John 8: 36-37).
As we come to the end of another Liturgical Year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Jesus Christ our King and Lord. As we have just read above in the quotes from the Gospel of St. John, Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world — it is not a Kingdom of human power but one of loving service to others of which we are all a part.
This feast of Christ our King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925. At this time in history many people, even Christians, were doubting the authority and even the existence of Christ. One of the easiest ways to avoid something that makes us uncomfortable is simply to deny that it exists. Poof, it is gone — or so we think. This feast then was instituted by the Holy Father at a time when respect and awe for Christ were wavering. And this reminder that Christ is our Lord and King is still needed today.
We read that Pope Pius XI instituted this feast, then, with three hopes in mind. First, he hoped that all nations would acknowledge the fact that the Christian Church has a right to freedom and immunity from the power of the State. For the most part, this has been realized. In our own country and others as well, we have the separation of Church and State as the two perfect societies and this seems to work well.
Secondly, our Holy Father hoped that the leaders of all nations would see their obligation to give Christ the proper respect. For this we must continue to pray.
And thirdly, our Holy Father hoped that the faithful would gain strength from this feast and realize the necessity for Christ to reign in our hearts, wills, minds, and bodies. May we all acknowledge Christ as the way, the truth and the life (John 14). Let us continue to pray that we may surrender our wills and lives to Christ’s care.
This, then, is the feast we celebrate today and the reasons for celebrating it. This feast, as we all realize, is always celebrated on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time right before the beginning of the season of Advent, the season when we wait once more for the promised Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ, to come into the world and into our hearts. May we permit him to come to us as our King and our Lord.
Monday of the Thirty-Fourth Week of Ordinary Time
Nov. 22, Feast of St. Cecilia
St. Cecilia was a martyr of the very early Church. Her remains are now located in the Church of St. Cecilia in the Transtevere (across the Tiber River) section of Rome. What we know about her is mostly legend and is available on the web. She is honored as the patron saint of musicians. There is a beautiful statue of her martyred body in, I believe, the catacomb of St. Callistus in Rome.
I was born on the feast of St. Cecilia, Nov. 22, 1930, and today I celebrate my 80th birthday. I am so grateful to God for his long gift of life. The feast of St. Cecilia is special in my life also for another reason. I was ordained a Priest in Rome, Italy, on July 14, 1957, fifty-three years ago. My Mom and Dad came to Rome for the ordination of their son to the priesthood and it was one of the most memorable occasions of my entire life. I had not seen them for three years and the reunion was just great, as you might expect. It was customary for those ordained in Rome to choose a favorite church or shrine at which to say their first few Masses after ordination. I said my third Mass on the altar above the statue of the martyred St. Cecilia in the catacombs. The floor of the catacombs consisted of damp dirt, not quite damp enough to be called mud, but close enough. My dear Dad wanted to serve that Mass. He was an impeccable dresser and I can still see him kneeling, in that damp earth of the catacombs, in his finest trousers and getting them full of dirt. All to serve the Mass offered by his son. That was and will always be a special moment in my life.
St. Cecilia, pray for us.
Tuesday of the Thirty-Fourth Week of Ordinary Time
Nov. 23, Luke 21: 5-11
The apocalyptic genre of Luke’s Gospel that appeared on the Thirty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time reappears here in today’s Gospel on this Tuesday. Once again, we remember that the main message of apocalyptic literature is to let us know that good will overcome evil. It is not meant to frighten us to death! Good will overcome evil for those who endure. St. Francis told us at the end of his Rule that he who perseveres to the end will be saved.
So we pray again today for the grace to “hang in there,” to believe what we believe despite what anyone else says or does, to keep Jesus number one in our lives no matter what problems, illnesses or crises come into my life. Let us continue to thank God daily for all his blessings and to keep our attitudes positive. It is good to be reminded of this often and that’s what this Gospel is doing for us on this Tuesday.
Wednesday of the Thirty-Fourth Week of Ordinary Time
Nov. 24, St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his Companions
Today’s feast honoring the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs is an excellent example of the perseverance we spoke of again in yesterday’s homily. We have written on these martyrs before. The Church in Vietnam was greatly persecuted during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. One particular thorn in all of this was the Emperor Minh-Mang who ruled for 20 years in the 19th century. Under his persecution, many Christians were martyred for their faith. Among them were bishops, priests, religious men and women and laity. St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions were part of this persecution. On June 19, 1988, Pope John Paul II canonized 117 of these martyrs who gave their lives for the Gospel truths of Jesus Christ. They are all honored on this feast day every year on Nov. 24.
Holy Vietnamese Martyrs, pray for us.
Thursday of the Thirty-Fourth Week of Ordinary Time
Nov. 25, THANKSGIVING DAY
Today we pause for a time to give thanks to God for all his blessings over the past years. How good God is to all of us! As a Gospel reading for today, I would suggest Luke 19: 11-28, a Gospel we read in the Liturgy not too long ago. This is the parable of a nobleman (Jesus) who went off to a distant country (planet earth) to obtain a kingship for himself. Before he left on his journey, he called 10 servants to come to him and gave them all 10 gold coins to take and invest while he was gone. When he returned, he called them to himself again to see how they all fared with their investments. Two reported they had doubled the value of the 10 coins. One, however, reported that he had taken the 10 gold coins and hid them so nothing would happen to them. He had made no investment — nothing. He didn’t fare too well when the nobleman found this out.
In one homily this year, I forget just when, we spoke of the study of numbers used in the Bible and their particular meaning. I remember saying one could spend a long time in this study. The number 10 used several times in the cited parable is one of the so-called perfect numbers signifying the perfection of the divine order. Ten also has a sense of wholeness in the Scriptures. For example, there were ten virgins in another parable waiting for the coming of the bridegroom. The number 10 here denotes the whole of Israel. Our parable has 10 servants each being given 10 gold coins. The number 10 here denotes all God’s people being given these gifts of the divine order. Each of us has indeed been given many gifts and talents by our Creator to use for our fellow human beings.
We are to know them, use them, not hide them. They are given to us for the benefit of the whole world. These are tremendous gifts of God’s grace to all. Do we know what they are? Are we really using them? Have we hidden some of them away? And most importantly, have we thanked God daily for these gifts?
It would seem to me a good practice as you all sit down for the Thanksgiving feast for all the members of the family to tell some of their particular gifts and talents to the other members of the family and to thank God publicly for them. Perhaps you can suggest this to your family. It can be a great moment for affirmation of each other and remind us all how important these gifts are. Don’t let Jesus end up wondering why we didn’t thank him on this Thanksgiving Day.
Friday of the Thirty-Fourth Week of Ordinary Time
Nov. 26, Luke 21: 29-33
“Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is near; in the same way when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near.”
Winter really hasn’t gotten a good start yet here in Minnesota and already you hear some people looking forward to spring and the budding of the trees and then the return of summer and warm weather. We are all able to see this transformation and predict that summer is near.
What are these things happening mentioned in today’s Gospel by which we will know that the Kingdom of God is near? These things are of the same order as the things John’s disciples heard from Jesus when John sent them to see if Jesus was the one who was to come. He told them to go and tell John that the blind see, the deaf hear and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. Marvelous signs!
The same answer is true today regarding these things. When we see people loving other people and sharing their gifts and talents for one another, when we see people forgiving each other in times of hurt, when we see selfishness disappear, when it is all about us and not all about me, when we are able to take the time to pray and show our need for God, when we profess Him to be our way, truth and life, when spiritual grace means more than material goods, when we share the plenty of the earth with all and there is no greed, when we show respect and understanding toward all people, when hatred and prejudices cease to exist — then the Kingdom of God will be in our midst.
Let us pray, as we prepare to enter the Advent season and welcome the new-born King, that we are able to do what we can do to bring all this to be.
Saturday of the Thirty-Fourth Week of Ordinary Time
Nov. 27, Luke 21: 34-36
“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are immanent and to stand before the Son of Man.”
This is a beautiful Gospel with which to close another Liturgical Year. I don’t know if the words of Jesus are meant to be advice or suggestions. Word has it that you never give advice to other people. They don’t really want it and won’t listen to it anyway. It is better to suggestthey do this or that. That way they just might at least listen to what you have to say. Whether they will do it is another matter. So, just to be on the safe side, let us say that Jesus is suggesting to us that as we close this year and begin another we try to do these three things:
First, we are to be vigilant. Watch what we do, think before we act, make good ethical choices for the good of others.
Second, pray. Let’s take the time for daily prayer to our Lord and Savior. If we are going to truly be his disciples, we must be a people of prayer.
Thirdly, let us be able to stand before the Son of Man. As we stand before him, let us tell him how proud and happy we are to serve him and our neighbor, how proud we are of our Church and parish, how proud to be able to see the goodness in others, and how proud we are of ourselves for being good people and followers of Jesus.
Jesus, please continue to help us now and always.