Monthly Archives: November, 2019

What kind of King is This?

Fr. Bob’s homily from Christ the King…

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Christ the King C

How many of you have begun to put your Christmas decorations up?  So tere you are, getting in the Christmas spirit, and you come to mass and we get this Gospel and Jesus is on the cross.  (Perhaps a good idea is to wait for Advent.)

But that is always how it is with the cross.  It shocks our system and jerks us out of our current state.  It is stunning that we worship one who hung on a cross, one who appeared to fail so miserably yet we dare to call him the king of the Universe.

I often think what would a Roman citizen who had died 2000 years ago in the year 19 would think of if they came into  a church and saw it filled with crosses, some with a man being crucified.  They would know what an excruciating torture, what degradation…

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One Tough Dude

Fr. Bob’s homily from 11/17/2019…

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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time C
This Gospel comes around every three years after election time and I always like to compare the promises of Jesus to those of the lofty ones of the candidates. Jesus promises if you follow him you will be seized, persecuted, put on trial, betrayed by family and killed. Yeah! Vote for Jesus.
You see Jesus’ problem is that he just can’t lie. He knows that if we really follow him we will have to endure what he endured. And what he had to go through was remarkable. He knew the sting of rejection of his hometown. He would share the full revelation of his religion only to be hunted by the leaders of his faith. He preached a message of perfect love and found himself hated for it. Besides, Jesus is now in Jerusalem and upon the horizon there are trials darker still. He…

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Christ the King, Cycle C

From http://www.usccb.org on Christ the King:  On the last Sunday of each liturgical year, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, or Christ the King.  Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 with his encyclical Quas primas (“In the first”) to respond to growing nationalism and secularism.  He recognized that these related societal ills would breed increasing hostility against the Church.  Today reminds us that while governments and ideologies come and go, Christ reigns as King forever.

During the early twentieth century, in Mexico, Russia, and in many parts of Europe, atheistic regimes threatened not just the Catholic Church and its faithful but civilization itself. Pope Pius XI’s encyclical gave Catholics hope and—while governments around them crumbled—the assurance that Christ the King shall reign forever. Pope Pius XI said that Christ “reign[s] ‘in the hearts of men,’ both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind” (Quas primas, 6).

Quas primas continues to ring true.  In recent years, aggressive secularist campaigns have sought to marginalize the Church and other religious institutions.  In response to the alienation and loss of solidarity which have accompanied these secularist assaults, racist movements have become more influential in the United States.  Now, as always, we must turn and gaze on the face of Christ, who is Lord over all nations.

1st READING – 2 SAMUEL 5: 1-3

David was not perfect.  David was a sinner, yet he would be the one Israel would remember as leader of their splendid past.  Doesn’t that give us all hope?  God comes to us as we are and can create in us a light for the world, if we let God shine through us.

As a sense of messianic hope developed in Israel, it was logical that the messiah-to-be would be referred to as the Son of David.  This king is a ruler who is in solidarity with his people.   Thus, king as benevolent ruler and as shepherd are primary motifs in the first Old Testament theology of kingship (W&W, Birmingham, p. 540).

We are your “bone and flesh” – what is meant here?  Reflect on what it means for our messianic king to be bone and flesh WITH us…

This is God’s work of gathering God’s people, using a king as an instrument to draw the people who are scattered.  God continues this work in the Church as God uses the instrument of Church and her ministers to shepherd the flock  (www.usccb.org).

2ND READING — COLOSSIANS 1: 12-20

This is from a Christian hymn probably used at baptisms.  What do some of these phrases mean to you?  Scholars suggest that this letter was written most likely in the 80’s A.D. in reaction to false teachers among the Christian groups.  Influenced by the Greek culture of their day, there were beliefs that regarded angels and other ‘spirits’ as rulers of the universe. They were associated with stars and new moons and pagan rituals. These people wanted Jesus to be seen as subordinate to these ‘deities,’ since by his incarnation they viewed him as being contaminated by human ‘flesh.’ This writer firmly tries to correct this view with imagery that is profound and beautiful.               (Celebration, Nov. 2001)

The word ‘transferred’ has a special purpose in this reading.  In the ancient world, when one empire won a victory over another, it was the custom to take the population of the defeated country and transfer it lock, stock and barrel to the conqueror’s land.  Thus the people of the northern kingdom were taken away to Assyria, and the people of the southern kingdom were taken away to Babylon.  So Paul says that God has transferred the Christian to his own kingdom.  From darkness to light…from slavery to freedom…from condemnation to forgiveness…from the power of Satan to the power of God  (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 111-112).

We must note that Paul says that in Christ God was reconciling all things to himself.  The Greek is a neuter (panta).  The point is that the reconciliation of God extends not only to all persons but to all creation, animate and inanimate.  The vision of Paul was a universe in which not only the people but the very things were redeemed.  The world is not evil.  It is God’s world and shares in the universal reconciliation (p. 123).  What a way to look at life!  This resonates so closely to what Pope Francis says in Laudato Si, “…all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things.  Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator,” (#83)  This is the kingdom of God!

THE GOSPEL — LUKE 23: 35-45

What two reactions to Jesus are seen here?  Who is the only one to call Jesus by name?  What does this mean to you?  How is this a story of conversion?  What kind of Kingship do we see here?

Jesus chose to exercise his authority as service and forgiveness. He reigns not from a throne, but from the cross. The Jesus who is worshipped today as Lord of lords and King of kings does not Lord it over others, but, rather, he loves and leads all who will follow him to the kingdom of eternal life, peace, and glory.    (Celebration, Nov. 2001)

The word ‘Paradise’ is a Persian word meaning a walled garden.  When a Persian king wished to do one of his subjects a very special honor he made him a companion of the garden, and he was chosen to walk in the garden with the king.  It was more than immortality that Jesus promised the penitent thief.  He promised him the honored place of a companion of the garden in the courts of heaven.  Surely this story tells us above all things that it is never too late to turn to Christ (Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, p. 299-300).

Christ is a different and new kind of king.  We normally think of kings as covered in jewels and fine clothes.  We imagine them followed by a great entourage.  Christ the king is stripped, beaten, and crowned not with jewels and gold, but with thorns.  His only attendants are his sorrowing Mother, his young friend, and a few women devoted to him.  Christ teaches us that his Kingdom belongs not to those who seem to have power in this world, but to the poor and humble who embrace the cross.  It is when we walk with Jesus and when we unite any of our suffering to his that we come to experience his glory and life in resurrection  (www.usccb.org).

Commentary on 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

Let us pray with St. Catherine of Siena…

You, God, as a fire

that always burns without consuming.

You are a fire consuming in its heat

every compartment of the soul’s self-absorbed love.

You are a fire lifting all chill and giving all light.

In Your light You show me Your truth.

You’re the Light that outshines every Light.

You, God, give the mind’s eye Your divine light

so completely and excellently,

You bring lucidity even to the light of faith.

In that faith, I see my soul has life,

and in that light,

I receive You who are Light itself.  Amen

1st Reading:   Malachi (3:19-20a)

Take a minute to go over the opening prayer again and what this reading is saying.  Our spirituality is like fire.  We can let it transform us, or we can rest in the coals.  St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “Go forth and set the world on fire.”  How does this sit with you today?

Malachi means “my messenger”.  This book was written by an anonymous author about 460-450 BC after the exile.  Although the exile was over and the people had been allowed to return home, they were disheartened.  The temple had been rebuilt, but it did not guarantee communal, liturgical, or spiritual unity.  The people were in disarray.  The clergy were negligent, the ritual sloppy, and there was an indifference to the needs of the poor.  The rich became richer, and poor became poorer.  The prophets used the idea of the “Day of the Lord” to create fear and to motivate people to change. They claimed the day would be a day of judgment – a day of fire when the righteous would be saved, but evil would be destroyed.  Because Malachi came up against the leaders, he was a very unpopular prophet.  He was also adamant that the people forsake all foreign religious practices – he was even afraid of intermarriage because he thought it would taint Judaism.  (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook, 533)

The “Sun of Justice” literally means the ‘sun which is justice’.  How does this image speak to you of God?  Here we see the Biblical authors applying the symbol of the ‘sun god’ that was used in Persia and Egypt to Yahweh, for to them Yahweh certainly was the source of all light and life. The hot sun could blaze with fire to burn away evil and to heal the righteous.  Christians applied this idea later to Jesus calling him the “Son of Justice” – the One who comes as light into the world with the incarnate presence of God.   (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Wk, 533-534)

2nd Reading:  2 Thessalonians (3:7-12)

This letter reflects an example of a group whose apocalyptic fervor has ‘gone amuck.’ They refused to work, and they were beginning to be a burden on the rest of the Christian community.  We do need to be careful how we apply this text.  We are all capable of being ‘shirkers’ – and we thus need to take the warning seriously. But – as with all scripture – we should not use this passage to criticize the poor who might be faced with unemployment and homelessness beyond their own choice. It may be just as likely to find ‘shirkers’ among the affluent as among the poor. Christianity always demands that we uphold the law of love. (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook, 534)

“Faith cannot stand as an excuse.  Faith does not wait for another to work, for another to think, to serve, to pray.  Faith plunges the believer into the thick of the human experience with all its pain and struggle even as it realizes and lives in the hope that this life is not forever.  Temporal and temporary as it is, however, it is only during THIS life that we have the opportunity to prepare for the life that never ends,” (“Preaching Resources”, Nov’04).

How could we apply the imagery of fire to this scripture passage?  Are those living disorderly living with a fire in their belly?

Gospel Reading:   Luke (21:5-19)

From John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Engaged” http://liturgy.slu.eduIn some ways this gospel is just about the way life is – such things do happen as Jesus warns us. Each day is the last. Each time is the end time. Each human faces the end of the world in the span of a life. Every sunset closes a day that will never come again. Each human death is a curtain on an unrepeatable drama. Without God, this would all mean hopeless tragedy.  Has there ever been an age without such turmoil and trial, persecution and stress? As Paul says, it is only faith that saves us; it is faith that gives us hope in the midst of this ‘groaning of creation’ both within and without our human lives – as we live and when we die.

Our belief in Paschal Mystery can help us.  From The Holy Longing (p. 146) by Ronald Rolheiser:

In order to come to fuller life and spirit we must constantly be letting go of present life . . .Terminal death is a death that ends life and ends possibilities. Paschal death is a death that, while ending one kind of life, opens the person undergoing it to receive a deeper and richer form of life . . . Jesus did not get his old life back. He received a new life – a richer life, a life that is free of death entirely. What can we learn from the cycle of the paschal mystery?

  1. Name your deaths.
  2. Claim your births.
  3. Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality.
  4. Do not cling to the old; let it ascend and give you its blessing.
  5. Accept the spirit of the life that you are in fact living. (148)

Christ’s words are meant to move us, inspire us to set the world on fire like St. Ignatius implores.  Here are some reflection questions using the image of fire:

  • What is blazing in your heart?
  • Where in your life do you experience the fire of light, protection and warmth?
  • What in your life needs to be refined or purified?
  • Where do you experience resistance to the purifying dimensions of fire?
  • What keeps you from living your life with an awareness of this holy fire within you?

Zacchaeus: A Story

Fr. Bob’s homily from 11/3/2019…

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31st Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Zacchaeus awoke to the large ramble of his house.  He said his morning prayers and began his rituals.  He came to his empty dining room table, gruff with irony.  No one in town had a more lavish or larger table, but everyone had more people around theirs than he did.  Lately, Zacchaeus had ruminated on many ironies or better yet contradictions in his life.  He was a devout Jew but rejected by the Jews as a tax collector for the Roman Empire.  Everyone knew him yet he was almost always alone.  He was a man with money, but without a place in the world.

It was with these heavy thoughts that he plowed into another day of work in the surging, bustling city of Jericho.  Another day sure to be filled with taking from others, financial success and deeper scarring.  He was neither…

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