"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE -C- Nov 20, 2022

2 Samuel 5: 1-3; Psalm 122; Colossians 1: 12-20; Luke 23: 35-43

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

PRE-NOTE: Advent begins next week. Matthew’s Gospel will be featured most Sundays through the liturgical year. We have posted an overview of the gospel on our webpage to help our reading, interpretation and prayer of this gospel. Go to https://preacherexchange.com/ and click on "Preaching Essay."


Today’s first reading recalls when the twelve tribes came together at Hebron to recognize David as their King and to pledge their allegiance to him. Much later the Jews of Jesus’ time were under King Herod and the Roman empire. They were in a hopeless, miserable state and so they would look to that past glory, a time when they had the great King David as their Shepherd King. He had his faults, but they were one with him. As the tribes say to David, "Here we are, your bone and your flesh." Despite his all-to-human weakness, God had used him to unite the disparate twelve tribes into one powerful kingdom.

Under Herod and the Roman occupation the suffering people not only looked back to those moments of past glory, they also looked ahead to a messianic, David-like king to deliver them. They had hope that God would once again, as God had done in the past, deliver them from their oppressors. Where was this long-awaited king and how would they recognize him when he did come? Well, he certainly was disguised in a most unexpected, even repulsive way – hanging on the cross! To further humiliate and mock the people Pilate had placed on Jesus’ cross the inscription, "This is the King of the Jews." How did this king get to this crushing place?

Since the 13th Sunday, when Luke told us that Jesus "firmly resolved to proceed to Jerusalem"(9:51-62), we have been traveling with Jesus and his disciples to the Holy City. Along the way, Luke periodically reminds us that they were on the road to Jerusalem. (The "Journey Narrative" begins at 9:51 and ends at 19:28, as Jesus enters Jerusalem.) As Jesus travels with his disciples he: performs miracles; teaches them about prayer and the cost of discipleship; sends them on mission; meets resistance from the religious leaders; predicts his own passion; gives warning about the coming crisis; exhorts them to faith and encourages them to persevere until the Son Of Man returns. Still, when they do get to Jerusalem and what he has predicted comes true, he is captured and crucified, they are completely shocked and crushed by disappointment and they scatter.

In Luke’s version of the execution, those who are there at the end are: onlookers, jeering soldiers, sneering religious leaders and, at a distance, "his friends and the women who accompanied him from Galilee..." (23:49). Of course, also there were the two crucified criminals hanging on each side of him. It’s a lonely throne and powerless crown for this "King of the Jews." Ironically, it is one of the criminals executed alongside Jesus who has the faith to ask Jesus to remember him when Jesus enters his kingly power.

Kings and queens, who are not just figureheads, exert power over their subjects. It is a "top-down" power like the power we have over things, animals and subordinate human beings. I saw an example of that power at a Marine base when a drill sergeant yelled, "Attention" and his recruits became ramrod stiff with eyeballs frozen straight ahead. When we call Jesus our king, some people believe that’s the kind of power he can exert any time he chooses.

But today, on the cross, where is that power? Why doesn’t he exert it to get off the cross, smash his enemies and declare the arrival of the kingdom? Instead, if we want to see our king, we must turn our gaze to the horrible spectacle of the cross and see him pinned to the cross beam. What’s going on here?

Jesus, the king, is showing us another kind of power from the cross. St. Paul tells us, in Philippians, that Jesus emptied himself, put aside divine prerogatives and power to humble himself and become human – even to accepting the ignominious death on a cross. Jesus’ power is not exerted by force, but by inviting us to become one with him. He is offering himself to us in a relationship that is strong, even when it appears weak. In that relationship we share in his power – a power to heal and forgive; a power to be his servants in his ministry of reconciliation. In our relationship with Jesus we become strong, not assuming power and rule over people, but by sharing his life in our relationship with others.

In accepting the cross Jesus entered into solidarity with the lowest rungs of his society. Who could be lower than a convicted criminal on the cross? The crucified Jesus is a sign that he is offering himself to everyone, especially those considered the lowest, not by forcing himself on us, but by giving himself to us in weakness and apparent defeat. While other earthly rulers and monarchs and even some religious authorities, exert themselves on us by asserting their power to achieve their own purposes, Jesus’ power is shown in his service to us and his willingness to lay down his life for us.

We are free to accept or reject his rule; he will not force us. He doesn’t want us to be his subservient subjects as much as his friends. ("I no longer speak of you as slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is about. Instead, I call you friends…." John 15:15). Indeed, we who have accepted his reign live as brothers and sisters in his kingdom, which is already present in the world.

The world challenges us daily to choose the rule of other powers and principalities – greed, violence, indifference, cruelty, aggression, etc. As a result, accepting Jesus’ rule is not a once-and-for all act, but it needs to be renewed each day by the deliberate choices we make. Being members in the reign of God, under Jesus’ kingship, can be very discouraging at times. So much of his reign is incomplete or fragmentary in our world. A quick glance at today’s headlines will confirm that! There’s more to be done to make Jesus’ "peaceable Kingdom" a reality in this life – not only in our surrounding world and within our Christian community, but also within in each of us.

So, we live in hope and return each week to receive the nourishment we need –the Word of God and the food of Jesus’ body and blood – to live in the reign of God, not only as loyal servants, but as brothers and sisters of King Jesus.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112022.cfm

QUOTABLE

The reason why we proclaim Christ as our king is that he taught us what real leadership is all about. The reason why he reigns from a cross is that he never failed to remind the political and religious rulers of his time that they weren’t gods. Christ is a king who is still listening to his subjects and taking their words to heart even as he dies on a cross.

Robert P. Waznak, S.S. "Like Fresh Bread: Sunday Homilies in the Parish." (New York: Paulist Press, 1993, page 263). ISBN 0-8091-3378-4.

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

According to the decree for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
Psalm 122:4

What is the name of the Lord? If you read Jewish mystical writings, God has at least 72 names. Christians know God as Jesus, whose name means, "God is salvation." Every name in the Bible has a meaning and they can point to an attribute of God found in that person. Jesus is clearly someone who brought saving grace to others. As his disciples, we are called to be images of Jesus to the world so that our names might reflect God through our actions. This Thanksgiving, take a little time to reflect on how God has acted with saving grace in your life, give thanks to the name of the Lord, and then with your family and friends to consider the following questions:

*What does "Thanksgiving" mean to you?

*What practices/traditions make the holiday special?

*During this holiday, would you spend time with loved ones locating poverty-stricken areas of the world on a global map?

*Would you consider praying for the families in those locations and consider how you might help them?

*How might a new kind of Thanksgiving transform your life?

*What would be the benefits of your new world (spiritually, physically, emotionally) for you and for others?

As you gather with family or friends, you might each read a verse of the following Thanksgiving prayer from St. Vincent Meals on Wheels:

Dear Lord,

Today we give thanks for our many blessings

as we pray for those in need.

We give thanks for our family and friends

as we pray for those who are lonely.

We give thanks for our freedoms

as we pray for those who are oppressed.

We give thanks for our good health

as we pray for those who are ill.

We give thanks for our comfort and prosperity

as we share our blessings with others.

On this day of Thanksgiving,

May the love of God enfold us,

The peace of God dwell within us

And the joy of God uplift us. Amen.

May your Thanksgiving overflow with saving grace.

Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director

Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said,
"He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God...."

Above Jesus there was an inscription that read,
"This is the King of the Jews."

Reflection:

Jesus, the king, is showing us a power from the cross in contrast to what the world reckons as power and rule. His power is not exerted by force over us, but by inviting us to become one with him. He is offering himself to us in a relationship that is strong, even when it appears weak.

So, we ask ourselves:

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

Many people say that we need the death penalty in order to have "justice for the victims."

But so many family members of murder victims say over and over that the death penalty is not what they want. It mirrors the evil. It extends the trauma. It does not provide closure. It creates new victims… it is revenge, not justice.

Killing is the problem, not the solution.

----Shane Claiborne, Death Penalty Action's Advisory Board Chairman,

This is a particularly vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of the inmates listed below to let them know we have not forgotten them. If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

----Central Prison, P.O. 247 Phoenix, MD 21131

Please note: Central Prison is in Raleigh, NC., but for security purposes, mail to inmates is processed through a clearing house at the above address in Maryland.

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

On this page you can sign "The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty." Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty: http://www.pfadp.org/

DONATIONS

"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to Fr. John Boll, OP at jboll@opsouth.org.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP:

St. Albert Priory
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars.

Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation:
https://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to Fr. John Boll, OP at Jboll@opsouth.org.

3. Our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to Fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.