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Contents: Volume 2 - Christ the King (A)
 - November 22, 2020


CHRIST

  the

  KING

   2020

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Even if the title keeps changing, the focus of the day does not. Today we celebrate Jesus, the King of all. The kind of king Jesus is matters greatly especially at a time when many, many people in our world feel rather discouraged and scattered about so many things!

The political scene in the US and across the globe has various pictures of their past and present leaders. Some are objectively benevolent and some are the opposite. Some come into power conventionally and some through confrontational means or even vicious uprisings.

Jesus is Jesus, a very different kind of a king, a king of and for all. Notice the number of times in our first reading from the book of Ezekiel that the word for the first person "I" is said by God. God, yes the Almighty God, has initiated, taken charge of, and implemented the care of each and every one if us all through Jesus, God's word made flesh, the king of all.

This is not impersonal care through delegating it to someone else. No, this is personal care, one on one, for each of us by the most holy Lord so that "God may be all in all". The psalmist reminds us that we are shepherded by the Lord, the One who cares deeply for us. In a time when we have marginal contact with other people because of this pandemic, dedicated and personal care is especially precious and needed!!!

Our Gospel reading foretells the end time when Jesus will sit on his throne as king and judge. Jesus will use the criteria of the works of mercy to pass judgment on the actions and non-actions of those in the assembly. It is those actions and non-actions themselves that will dictate if one's inheritance is the eternal Kingdom with God or the eternal fire with the devil and his angels.

It is a clear warning from that passage that each of us must be aware of what we say and do, as well as not say and not do. We cannot be apathetic or uncaring, even when a pandemic necessitates social distancing. We must mirror our own God and be intentional, for it is a loving God whom we mirror when we perform the works of mercy.

There are many "Good News Stores" about people who go to the aid of others in times such as we all face. Some are anonymous kindnesses, others are word-of-mouth stories, and some get media attention. Some are face to face and some use technology like the phone or computer as instruments. We can all be instruments of our good and gracious God in some way, to some one, to make someone smile, just as we ourselves smile when some TLC comes our way.

Let us rejoice in this day's celebration that we are loved, governed, and guided by a kind, merciful, and just God. Let us make the time to appreciate, thank, and even bask in the care given to us by our God, directly and through others. Let us prayerfully discern how we can extend that care to others by being God's instruments through the works of mercy.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Solemnity of Christ the King November 22, 2020

Ezekiel 34:11-12 & 15-17; Responsorial Psalm 23; 1st Corinthians 15:20-26 &28; Gospel Acclamation Mark 11:9 & 10; Matthew 25:31-48

The first reading is taken from the 34th Chapter of the prophet Ezekiel. This chapter portrays the conditions of Juda in the time before the exile into Babylon. Ezekiel speaks in the voice of God as the chapter begins. God condemns the shepherds of his Chosen People for their failures as conscientious shepherds of God’s flock. They have spent their lives not in service to the people but in amassing for themselves luxuries, power, and great wealth. God condemns them for "fleecing" the flock, robbing them of food, of water, and even their wool. Such kings used the Sadducees, the capitalists and wealthy owners of land, manufacturing, and distribution of the work of workers to enrich themselves, to empower themselves, and to command the adulation of the crowds.

Frequently, in Hebrew Scripture, political leadership is described in a metaphor of the work of shepherds. This was true not only in the Hebrew nation but also in most early civilizations. The king was thought to be a shepherd, one who looked after the good of the flock, leading them to lush pastures, finding streams of flowing, pure, refreshing waters, and protecting them from ravenous beasts of prey. The king-shepherd’s work was to look out for the good of ordinary people. A king’s worth was always based on the quality of life and security experienced by ordinary people of the nation. Bad kings were bad because of the lack of security and burdens levied on the backs of working people.

After stating the Lord’s condemnation of kings and the king’s administration in Juda, the prophet turns to contrasting the qualities of a just shepherd against past and current kings. That is the gist of the first reading this Sunday. The Good Shepherd, the good King’s focus is always on the people’s welfare. That King, that Good Shepherd would always protect the flock from their curious roaming. That Good Shepherd, that King made God’s loving kindness present among the people, brought healing to the infirm in the flock, bound up wounds, and led to good pastures and flowing water. Ezekiel describes what the hoped-for Messiah would be for Israel. After this description Ezekiel turns to a description of the flock. He knows the flock has members who lord it over less strong, weaker, less important. These sheep can easily be bullied, abused, and suffer the pain of loss and unfairness of what is necessary for living. "The sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly." Ezekiel, in his prophetic vision, sees that among the strong and healthy there are those who rob from the margins of the flock what they need to live. Ezekiel condemns the strong and the healthy because they abuse for their own benefit those who are not as strong, not as healthy, not as wealthy. A little further in this chapter 34, Ezekiel writes a condemnation of the strong and the sleek. Ezekiel sees those with strengths, those with strong shoulders and sharp horns push aside the weak and sick, keeping them from lush pastures and flowing water. Ezekiel condemns violent ones with great health and strength and resources trample down the good grass, they foul the water of the flowing streams with their hooves, robbing the weak and ill of nourishment and of water. Those ruin the land, pleasuring in the destruction of what is necessary for the weak. The Lord, in this prophecy of Ezekiel condemns these.

If we consider Ezekiel in the light of the Gospel this Sunday, we discover a parallel between Ezekiel’s prophecy and Jesus’ parable of the final judgment of humanity. In the gospel these past two weeks from chapter 25 of Matthew, we heard the fate of the foolish virgins and of the servant whose fear of the master robbed him of courage to grow what he had been given. In this reading Jesus lays out how the nations will be judged – how each citizen of each nation will be judged. It is not what we might have thought. There is nothing about the law, there is nothing about doctrine, there is nothing about ritual. What is judged is the contents of an individual’s heart. Jesus’ teaching tells us it is what is in our hearts, what we love and care about, that is the context of this final and eternal judgment. It teaches that what we do springs from what we love. And what we choose to love is what makes us worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven or of eternal loss. The human heart is informed by God’s revelation about how to live according to the image and likeness of God in which humanity has been formed. In this scene of judgment there is a resulting division, a binary judgment by the author of human life. Prior to judgment both sheep and goats walked together, worked together, lived together. What are the standards by which this great multitude is judged? How will the righteous ones be gathered in and the non-righteous ones excluded? It is apparent in this parable that the ones welcomed into the Kingdom of God do not anticipate why they are selected. As they lived, they saw others in need and responded by extending them assistance, food, drink, education, welcome to immigrants seeking refuge, and dignity as they became members of the flock.

As we think about this final judgment taught by the Christ, we come to understand that we are individually king-shepherds, queen-shepherds. Each of us has an opportunity to welcome, feed, heal, and recognize the dignity of each person we encounter. We discover as we live where our hearts lie. The Way of the World teaches us that each person is only to live for his self. All others are worthless. Ezekiel and Jesus condemn this attitude.

The times are terrifying. Around the entire world, there is a rise in authoritarianism. There is a resurgence of nationalism that sets one nation against another using the power of technology, of resources, of political intrigue and violence. The parable insists God loves each person and every bit of his creation with an overwhelming love. This instruction from God does not endorse the pursuit of power, of wealth, or of fame. It endorses, no, it insists that our salvation is based on love for others, especially the least among us. We among all creation have the gift of freedom to choose. That freedom to choose demands a response. God’s hoped for outcome for humanity is clear, overly simple, but oh so life changing. The parable of the final judgment instructs us that the outcomes of human living must be an ever-increasing love for our fellow humans and respect for all creation. The growth of love and respect for the inherent dignity of each person and of every bit of creation is what ultimately brings us to that heart lifting invitation: " Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’"

It seems we hear yet again: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself." At this end of the liturgical year, it is time to hear what the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, will say to us individually in our particular judgment and when we are separated out – sheep from goats. May we be gathered together on that vast plain and hear Jesus invite us in.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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3.

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HONORING JESUS CHRIST OUR KING

  • – How have you experienced people during the Covid-19 restrictions? More selfish than generous, or more generous than selfish?

  • – Name the values of Jesus that mean the most to you.

  • – What standards of judgment will Jesus our Judge be using, when we come to him to be judged? Do those standards surprise you?

  • – What kind of society did Jesus our King want, and work to achieve?

  • – What is he like as our King? How have you found him?

  • – As his subjects, what are we like?

In the Preface to our Eucharistic Prayer today, we’ll hear the kingdom of Jesus Christ described as ‘a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace’. Recently this good news came my way. A little five-year-old boy from the prep grade at St Mary’s School nearby rang the doorbell of the Parish Centre. He was about to go with his family on a holiday to India, but before setting out he brought all he had saved up for the holiday - $13.50 - to the parish. ‘Give it to buy a Christmas present,’ he asked the Parish Secretary, ‘for some poor child.’

Surely in a somewhat selfish world that’s inspirational! Even though only five years old, he was already taking seriously the values that Jesus both taught and practised - truth, justice, and love. He was recognising already that Jesus is both king of his life and king of the whole world.

In the gospel today, Jesus describes the General Judgment that will take place at the end of the world. He makes it clear that as king of the world he will be the judge. He also makes it clear that the standard of judgment is this: ‘as long as you did this to one of the least of these brothers [or sisters] of mine, you did it to me.’ Or, on the other hand, ‘in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.’

So, the basis of his judgment is our love for others, our practical charity shown in care and kindness. To hungry people, thirsty ones, newcomers and strangers, those without sufficient clothes, sick persons, prisoners, and other shut-ins, persons in everyday need in one way or another! (Even as I echo those words of Jesus to you now, I am shuddering inside about my own inadequate performance).

Was it not to bring in a new world of overflowing compassion that Jesus called ‘the kingdom of God’ the very reason that he came among us, and the very reason that he stays with us? Did he not come to bring to an end all hostility, all wars and all terror? Did he not both live and die to set people free from hunger, poverty, want and disease? Did he not come down to earth to change our hearts, to rid us of all evil and sin, to redeem, liberate, and transform us? Did he not come to bring among us, justice, joy, peace, health and wellbeing? Did he not come among us to change our world for the better, by working with God for a better world?

His kingship, then, is not like that of other kings and rulers. It is not about wealth and power. It is not about domination and control. It is not about military might, conquests, and national security. It is not about splendour, magnificence, mansions, palaces and feasting. No! His kingship is about truth and honesty. It’s about goodness and generosity. It’s about service and self-sacrifice. It’s about justice and love. It’s about mercy and care. Mercy and care for all people, but especially for those who are poor, broken-hearted, neglected or ignored!

At the trial of Jesus, Pontius Pilate found it very hard to practise both truth and justice. Witnessing to the truth was something that Pilate was finding particularly hard to do. He had already found Jesus innocent. If he was ready to act on that truth, surely, he would have set Jesus free? It seems, then, that while he might have been sincerely concerned about Jesus’ safety, he was not concerned enough that Jesus was totally innocent. For he refused to act on that truth when it was in his power to do so!

What about us? Do you and I qualify as subjects of his kingdom? Do we belong to him or not? Do we call him ‘Our Lord’’, and if we do, do we really mean it and live it?

Today our current liturgical year is coming to an end. Next Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent and the start of the Year B Cycle of Readings. Today, Jesus our King is inviting us to bring this year of the Church to an end, by choosing him once again as our Lord, our Saviour, and our Shepherd, and by recommitting ourselves to live his teachings, his values, and his kind and gentle rule.

With the help of his amazing grace, are you and I ready and willing, then, to renew our commitment to him during the rest of our prayer today? Really and truly, are we ready to re-commit ourselves to care for others, as Jesus did, and especially the most neglected and forgotten persons around us, and more particularly those struggling to stay alive and safe during this Covid pandemic? Let’s try hard to make that commitment now, make it from the heart, and make it genuine, whole-hearted, and ongoing!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Year A: 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"As much as you did it to the least of these little ones, you did it to me."

At the end of time, we will be judged.

And we will not be judged on the basis of what we thought, or what we believed, or whether or not we read the Bible. We will be judged on how we acted – in particular, how we acted towards the least of these little ones.

  • Who are they, "the least of these little ones"?
  • Jesus pointed to them in His own Time.
  • Who are they now in our time and in our community?
  • Who are the most needy people that I know and meet?
  • Each of us will have our own individual answers to that question.
  • Each of us has a different calling.

But, as I prayed over this passage and examined my own conscience on this question, there came to my mind the image of the most miserable place I have ever been. It was the AIDS ward at the public hospital in a country in South America – a ward specially set aside for the care of people who were dying of AIDS.

When I visited there thirty years ago, the place was dreadful: filthy, infested with rats and running with dirty water down the walls. There was an open sewer running past the window. The smell was dreadful. There were few medicines, no clean water, hardly any food, hardly any trained nurses or doctors. I once heard one of the patients ask a nurse for an antibiotic for his chest infection. He was told, "We’re not wasting that on some one like you. You’re going to die anyway."

That is the very worst thing I have ever heard anyone say to another human being.

Those patients were the most deprived people I have ever known. They lay two to a bed, without clothes, without sheets, without dignity, without self-respect, without hope. They were close to dying in pain:

  • - the pain of ulcers where the skin had broken down over their bones.
  • - the pain of the dreadful hacking cough of the tuberculosis eating out their lungs.

But worst of all, the pain of dying alone, almost always abandoned by their family and one time friends.

I learned from them that when you have been deprived of everything, what you miss the most is human companionship.

If there was any joy at all in their lives, it came from a little old nun who used to visit with a little food, a little clothing; some soap, some towels. She herself admitted that very often she could do very little to help. But she said that at least she tried. She told me that she hoped that, at the very least, no-one would die without feeling they had been touched - even if only once and briefly - with the Love of Christ. It was to that hope that she was devoting the last few declining years of her life.

The other thing which came to my mind was a film which, I hope you may have seen – "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest". It is a parable of the triumph of one free human spirit over the most degrading and repressive regime that its author could imagine.

Even in such a place, one man has the courage, the faith, the sheer bloody-mindedness to try to escape. He fails, humiliatingly. But, as he shouts to the other less courageous inmates, "At least I bloody tried!"

We live in a world that has some great evils – suffering, injustice, disease and despair. It is in that world that God has placed us with, as we heard last week, all the talents that He has given us for service to His People. God does not expect us to do miracles, but he does expect us to do our best. So, when we come up before him, separating the sheep from the goats, let us at least be able to say that – according to our lights – at least we bloody tried.

Let us each for a moment reflect on the many people we will meet in the course of the coming week – all the people we will touch. And let us pray that we may touch each and every one of them with the Touch of Christ our King.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God, the Father of all Mercies.

Paul O’Reilly, SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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Volume II Archive

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