November 20, 2016

Christ the King

November 20, 2016:  Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

  • 'Peace sign' tie bar, 'blood drop' and crucifix pins:  Jesus made peace through blood of the cross (1st reading)
    • 'Crowns' tie:  Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
      • 'Ruler' tie bar:  The 'rulers' sneered at Jesus... (gospel)
      • '?' tie pin:  ..."Aren't you the Christ?" / "Have you no fear of God?" (gospel) 
      • 'Clocks' suspenders:  Ordinary Time closing, Day of the Lord coming
      • White shirt:  Color of the day
      Today's celebration is the crown of the year and this Year of Mercy.  The Gospel presents Jesus' kingship as the culmination of his saving work, in a surprising way.  “God's Anointed, the Chosen One, the King” appears without power or glory, looking more like conquered than conqueror:  his throne the cross, his crown of thorns, no scepter, no robes or rings....  His kingdom's grandeur is not power as defined by this world, but love, capable of encountering and healing all.  Christ lowered himself to us out of love, lived our misery, and suffered injustice, betrayal, abandonment, and death.  He came to embrace and save every living being.  He didn't condemn or conquer us, or disregard our freedom, but paved the way with love that forgives, hopes, and sustains all things and overcomes sin, death, and fear.  

      Today we proclaim his victory, by which he became King of all, through love alone.  We share the splendor of having him as King:  his rule transforms sin to grace, death to resurrection, fear to trust.  But it would mean little if we believed he was King of the universe but didn't make him Lord of our life, if we didn't personally accept Jesus and his way of being King.  The people in today's gospel help us:  the onlookers, those near the cross, and the "good thief."

      The onlookers:  No one says a word or approaches; those who pressed in on Jesus when they needed something now keep their distance.  We too can be tempted to keep our distance from Jesus' kingship, to not accept completely the scandal of his humble love, which unsettles us.  We prefer to stand apart, rather than draw near.  But we're called to follow his way of love, asking every day, “What does love ask of me?  Where is it urging me to go?  How am I answering Jesus with my life?”
      The mockers:  Leaders, soldiers and a criminal provoke Jesus, “Save yourself!,”  tempting him, as the devil did, to reign according to the world's ways instead of as God wills, to come down from the cross.  "If you're God, show your power!"  This is an attack on love:  “save yourself,” not others; claim triumph with your power, glory, and victory.  When confronted with this attack, Jesus doesn't react, defend himself, or try to convince them, but continues to love, forgive, and live according to the Father’s will, certain that love will bear fruit.  To receive Jesus' kingship, we must struggle against this temptation, look to the Crucified, and be faithful to him.  How often do we seek out the world's comforts and certainties, coming down from the cross?  This Year of Mercy invites us to rediscover and return to the core, to look at our King's shining face and rediscover the Church's beautiful face, radiant, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means, rich in love, on mission.  Mercy urges us to give up practices that keep us from serving the Kingdom, to orient ourselves in the humble kingship of Jesus. 

      The thief who begs, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”;  he believed in his kingdom.  With his sins, he didn't close in on himself but turned to Jesus and experienced God’s mercy.  When we give God the chance, he remembers us, his children, and cancels our sin, not keeping score.  God believes it's always possible to start anew.  Ask for the gift of this open and living memory, for the grace of never closing the doors of reconciliation but knowing how to go beyond evil and differences, opening pathways of hope.  As God believes in us beyond our merits, so must we instill hope and provide opportunities to others.  The true door of mercy, the heart of Christ, always remains open wide; from his side flow mercy, consolation and hope. 

      We give thanks for the mercy we've received that we may become instruments of mercy.  May Mary accompany us; she was also close to the Cross and gave birth to us as the Mother of the Church.  She saw the good thief receive pardon and took Jesus’ disciple as her son.  She is Mother of Mercy, to whom we entrust ourselves....

      • 2 Sm 5:1-3  Israel:  "You led us, and God told you, 'You shall shepherd my people and be commander.'"  Elders anointed David king of Israel.
      • Ps 122:1-5  "Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord."
      • Col 1:12-20  God made you fit to share the saints' inheritance, delivered us from darkness to his Son's kingdom.  Christ is the image of God, in whom all was created.  He's firstborn from the dead, head of the church; he made peace by the blood of his cross.
      • Lk 23:35-43  Rulers jeered, "Jesus saved others, let him save himself if he's God's Anointed.  "Good thief" on cross:  "He's done nothing criminal.  Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
        • Creighton:  To acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, and King, I need to remember I'm not the King of the Universe  I'm small and powerless amid the world's divisions and conflicts and the mystery of life.  I also need to let my relationship with Jesus be renewed and become more personal, intimate, and full of gratitude.  The Master of the Universe knows and loves me. The kingship of Jesus also gives us courage and hope in the face of threats.  God's mercy will always be with us.  Encouraged, we can give hope to the hopeless, and proclaim the good news by our love, mercy, and witness.  "May your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, in our time, for your people."
          Christ the King icon
        • One Bread, One Body:  "The King of controversy":  When Pius XI instituted today's feast, the Church was making a statement that we're to give our ultimate allegiance to Christ, King of kings.  You can see why this feast and Jesus' claim to be King may be controversial.  When the magi asked Herod where the newborn king was, he became greatly disturbed, and Bethlehem became traumatized by his massacre.  On the morning of Jesus' crucifixion, Pilate asked Jesus whether he was King, Jesus said he was King of a kingdom not belonging to this world, and Pilate even questioned about truth.  While Jesus was on the cross, the soldiers said, "If you're king, save Yourself," and the other criminal said, "Remember me when You enter upon Your reign."  May we be like the "good thief" and magi who accept Christ the King on his terms, not Herod, Pilate, or the other thief....
        • Passionist:  “Today, you will be with me in Paradise”:  Just as he forgave the "good thief" and invited him into his kingdom, so does Jesus for us.  God’s kingdom was established, and our discipleship begins, at the cross, allowing ourselves to be crucified on the cross of self-giving. People were looking for a king to reassert Israel’s independence, quash the Romans, and make wise decisions, but Jesus had a different vision.  He urged leaders to serve, and he modeled it as he served people at the lowest rungs of society.  He demonstrated his kingship by healing and saving others, not himself.  He demonstrated it through love, not power and wealth.  We're living in his kingdom now, called to give ourselves each day, dying to ourselves so as to make the kingdom "at hand" now and follow Jesus to paradise.  When we notice the lost and lonely, offer compassion and forgiveness to those who hurt us, show love and tenderness, the Kingdom of God is in our midst.
        •  "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom":  Jesus was crucified for his claim to be the Anointed King sent by the Father to establish his kingdom for Israel and all people.  God didn't give his people a king at first because God alone was their King and they needed no other, but he relented and chose David with the promise that God would raise up through his line a Savior to establish an everlasting kingdom of justice and peace.  The Jews understood the Messiah ("Anointed") would restore paradise and establish God's reign of peace for them; they wanted a King who would free them from strife, division, and oppression.  Many hoped Jesus would be the Messiah, but they didn't understand the nature of his kingship.  Jesus came to deliver everyone from sin, guilt, and separation from the all-merciful God; he came to conquer hearts for an imperishable kingdom, ruled not by force or fear but by God's righteousness, peace, and joy.  He knew the way was through submission to his Father's will.  The "good thief" recognized him as God's Anointed and Savior; Jesus gave him a place with him in his kingdom.  Jesus died as King of all nations, Lord of the universe; his victory was accomplished through his death and resurrection.  He exchanged a throne of glory for a cross of shame to restore us as God's children.  If we follow the Lord, he'll open our eyes to his truth and guide us by his Spirit to our true homeland.  This world will pass away, but God's kingdom will endure.  May I live as a faithful subject of the Kingdom of Christ Jesus....
        • Sunday-trumped saint, from Universalis:  Edmund, king, martyr too?

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