1st Reading – Daniel 7: 13-14
We need to appreciate what has come before the passage we read today in order to know the wonder of this vision of the coming of the son of man before the throne of the Ancient One. The writer has been sharing a vision of four beasts who have emerged from the sea, the realm of evil and chaos. These beasts represent the various oppressive kingdoms that have tormented the Jewish people: 1st the lion with eagle’s wings and a human heart (the Babylon empire), 2nd a bear with three ribs (the Medes), 3rd a leopard with four heads and four wings (the Persian rule), and 4th a beast with huge feet and iron teeth who ate and trampled over everything. This fourth one was the Greek empire; its ten horns represented the ten kings of the Seleucid dynasty. This was the dynasty under which Daniel and his people were now suffering. Unlike the tyrants who emerged from the realm of evil (the sea), the Son of Man would come from heaven, from goodness, from God. The tyrants’ rule was cruel, but would exist for only a time. The Son of Man would rule over all peoples for all ages. (Preaching Resources, Nov. 23, 2003)
When this book was written, the author probably intended the image of the Son of Man to represent all the faithful people of the Lord – people whose trust in God would end in fulfillment and not disaster. As Christians we see in this passage a fore-seeing, a ‘vision’ of the final establishment of Christ’s rule. All things are not yet under our King’s feet – all do not follow his way of love. But that all will do so in the end is our Christian hope.
(Reginald Fuller, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu.)
2nd Reading – Revelation 1: 5-8
Here, too, is imagery of hope for those who are persecuted by an evil beast (Rome). Christ is given three titles. 1st Jesus is the faithful witness to the truth of God. Jesus’ very life, death and resurrection is the witness par excellence of God’s power of love and goodness. 2nd Jesus is called the first-born from the dead. He is Lord of the living and the dead: in resurrection he gains a victory over death; he is the first-born in whom the power and the honor of his father is fully invested. 3rd, Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth; he is affirmed as king and messiah. In all these ways we are assured that Jesus loves and frees us by making us his own – a nation of priests in God’s service, mediators of divine presence here on earth. In that way, his kingdom that is not of this world (the gospel) will transform this world. (Preaching Resources, Nov. 2003)
From John Kavanaugh, S.J. “The Word Encountered,” http://liturgy.slu.edu. :
Throughout the readings for this Sunday we ‘dream’ of kingship and regal splendor – we hope for an eternal Lord whose decrees are worthy of trust. Here in Revelation we find the “Alpha and Omega” – the One who is and who was and who is to come. This king is a liberator and lover. The lord of history who stands before the throne of God is not a lion. He is a lamb. In John’s gospel, we see that he is a servant-king, who washes his follower’s feet. In the face of Roman power, he is strangely grand and noble in his vulnerability and the utter truth of his being. He does not muster armies. He just invites. In Jesus’ kingdom people are drawn into a life of liberation, freed from false securities armed only with humility and truth. The human heart will never outgrow its longing for such a promised friend and rule. Something deep rises from within us in the face of its beauty. It awakens a long-lost ache to give everything else away for a cause so good and true . . . “When Love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?” (an old Shaker hymn)
The Gospel – John 18: 33b-37
In this conversation between Jesus and Pilate, John the Evangelist is offering to his readers a challenge. Jesus — faced with suffering and death at Roman hands — invites Pilate to listen and to respond to the truth. But Pilate just responds with his own question – a question for which he does not want an answer: “What is truth?” We, too, are asked through this story, “Will you respond to the truth?” Jesus and his kingdom do not originate from human scheming and political power. Jesus’ kingdom is not like Pilate’s. Pilate’s kingdom is one of domination, privilege, power and prestige. In Jesus’ kingdom, love and justice and service are present. Jesus’ kingdom comes into human history, enhancing it and leading it beyond itself . . . (Mary Birmingham, W&W for Year B, p.744)
From Henri Nouwen, written in his journal on the feast of Christ the King, 1995:
Today, “Christ is presented to us as the humbled king on trial for his life and as the glorious ruler of the universe. The greatest humiliation and the greatest victory come together in Christ today. How important it is for us to look at this humiliated and victorious Christ before the liturgical year begins. Today, Christ, humble and victorious, reminds us to stay close to him — close to him in humility, close to him in victory. We are called to live both aspects of Christ in our own daily lives. We are small and big, specks in the universe and the glory of God, little, fearful people and sons and daughters of the Lord of all creation.” (Preaching Resources, Nov., 2003)
This was spoken to people who have lost a loved one in the last year. Reading it now, perhaps picture yourself sitting in our Union Street Church.
I would like to call your attention to the stained glass window in the back of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. She lived 1647-1690, so she died when she was 43 years old. We just had her Feast Day on October 16th. She is the patron saint for polio patients, children whose parents have died and she was a devotee to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Born in Burgandy, France, she was sent to the Poor Clares’ School when she was 8 after the death of her father. At 15, she became devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and soon professed her vows with the Order of Visitation nuns. She began having visions at 20 where Jesus told her she would spread a devotion to his Sacred Heart. It was Pope Clement X111 that made the devotion official in 1765, 75 years after her death.
The devotion of the Sacred Heart is all about God’s great love winning over the brokenness in the world.
This statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is normally placed in that alcove, right between St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and the Book of the Names of the Dead. All of you signed your loved one’s name in that book so we could continually pray for them at Mass. So the love in Jesus’ sacred heart is a constant presence, a physical reminder in that space.
When you look at this statue, what do you see? What is so prominent, for me, is that Jesus is touching his heart. Why do you think he does this? I came up with 3 ideas.
Jesus wants to bring attention to his love for us. It’s like Jesus is saying my love is right here. I am putting it out there fully for you. I will not keep it hidden from you. Even if I get hurt – and he does…mortally hurt – I will bear my love for you. No matter what. Whether or not it is returned. My love for you is right here. You can access it at any time, especially in times like now, when we are missing those we love. When we are in dire need. Jesus’ love is right here.
Jesus wants to bring our attention to what love we’re supposed to have, this open, vulnerable, sacred heart kind of love. “…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones …the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,” as Paul says to the Ephesians. That kind of love…do you hear it? And you know this. You know this because that’s why you’re here. Grief is just love. It’s risky. When we bear our own sacred hearts, there can also be pain. Loss. That’s what love does. This sacred heart doesn’t promise an easy road. But it does promise a fullness, a goodness, a kind of satisfaction that surpasses everything else. Jesus points to his sacred heart and says do this. Even if it hurts. Do this. Love your little hearts out. It’s worth it.
But why? For my last idea…because it heals us. Because love draws us to God’s very self, even if we’re not aware of it. It is right and just, and we feel that. The touch of love – a hug (pre-COVID!), a hand on the shoulder, even a knowing gaze – it warms us up. It helps us feel like we’re not alone. It is an action that goes beyond words. At almost every funeral, at the end of Mass, Fr. Bob comes down from the altar to do the final commendation and puts his hand on the casket. He does it so gently, with love – that touch is like a prayer in and of itself. These touches of love say…I’m here. I’m with you. You matter. All will be well. How much MORE does Jesus want to touch our hearts? And right now…when you are hurting…that touch of the sacred heart is there for you, to heal you.
It is the great commandment: love God, love each other, with all our heart, soul and mind. That’s what Jesus did and does. That deep love of his sacred heart shines out for us, lights our way even now. His love shines through the love you have for those you love that have died, that are on the other side of life. The love doesn’t die. It’s still here. The sacred hearts of your loved ones still shine too. With all their hearts, souls and minds. At her death, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque said, “I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.” May you feel it. May you live it. May it touch you. May it heal you. Amen
1st Reading – 1 Kings 17: 10 – 16
What does this story illustrate to us about the ‘true God’? What happens to us when we think that we do not have enough to share or anything worthy of sharing? What can we learn from this widow and this story?
From M Birmingham’s W & W Wkbk B, 711-712: All the ‘Elijah’ stories are written to show us who the real God truly is. The fertility gods, especially the god, Baal, have no place before Yahweh. Elijah was in conflict with King Ahab and his pagan wife, Jezebel. Ahab had allowed his wife to bring her pagan worship of Baal with her into Israel. The prophets of Baal with Jezebel’s encouragement sought to destroy the prophets of Yahweh. Elijah had therefore informed King Ahab that a drought would come upon the land. Baal and his prophets had claimed that Baal had ultimate power over the land and natural elements like rain for crops. Yet, during this famine Baal proved powerless. Elijah had initially taken refuge near a stream where God had provided bread and meat in the morning and evening; ravens brought these ‘gifts’ to Elijah by order of Yahweh. But eventually the stream dried up. This is when Elijah is told to go to visit this widow in Zarephath of Sidon. This area was the very pagan home of Baal. Elijah trusted in God’s Word and proceeded headlong into this place of danger. When Elijah saw this woman in mourning clothes, he decided to ‘size her up’ by asking for a drink of water – a precious commodity in the desert climate at the time of famine. She responded with generosity and truthfulness which showed her openness to God’s Word in her own life. Unlike the corrupt King Ahab, this widow trusted in the God of Elijah and her needs were met.
2nd Reading – Hebrews 9: 24 – 28
How is Jesus’ sacrifice like that of the widow’s?
Jesus took pain, rejection, even death and filled it with God’s presence and love. So even the worst that life may throw at us can no longer separate us from God’s love and presence. When Jesus comes again – and He does come again and again and again – What does He bring? – a life that is eternally bursting forth!
The sanctuary that was in the temple was referred to as being a copy of the true one, heaven itself. The sanctuary is empty and dark, covered with a veil (how different from actual heaven hopefully!). It was entered only by the high priest and then only once a year, on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Two goats would be sacrificed as a sin offering and their blood sprinkled in the sanctuary – the scapegoats. Jesus is our scapegoat! He sacrificed himself as our sin offering, though sinless. But through him, there is life! He is our advocate…always for us. By entering into the sanctuary, he opened the way for all the redeemed to enter also. (Preaching Resources, Sanchez, 2).
From Wm Barclay, The Letter to the Hebrews, 109-110: Christ did not enter into a man-made Holy Place; he entered into the very presence of God. As Christians we are to know that in Christ we also can enter into this intimate fellowship with God.
The Gospel – Mark 12: 38 – 44
From John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Encountered” http://liturgy.slu,edu. :
There are times when we are down, and we think we have nothing left to give. Little remains in the barrel of our lives. Then, for some reason, we still manage to give more out of the nothing we have left. And grace is born again. How often the mere pennies of others replenish us. It happens in that moment when someone seems to have nothing much to give us: no education, no program, no sermon, no sound advice, no solution to our problems. If they do not give up on us, but give us something else — if they give not from their surplus, but from what they have to live on — we find that they have offered their very being — their presence, their hearts…the very life of God growing in our faith, hope, and love. Do you have an experience of this to share?
From J Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle B, 160-162: The scribes were lay theologians who were experts on the Law of Moses and scripture. Jesus hurls a scathing insult at them. Because of their position of honor, they were used to being greeted first by those who were considered ‘lower’ in honor. They loved to be given the best seats at synagogues; these seats were up on the platform facing the people. Jesus’ comment on this widow’s behavior is more a lament than praise. The Temple authorities had promised to redistribute the Temple collections to the needy. Yet, they would spend the funds on conspicuous consumption like expensive clothing and banquets. They “devoured the estates of widows.” Jesus laments this corruption. In fact, in Jesus’ culture it would be very wrong to donate to the Temple if it meant that you would be plunging deeper into poverty and thus dishonor.
From Journey of Faith, Cycle B, 115: Here Jesus is trying to teach the crowd and his disciples. Throughout Mark’s gospel, Jesus has associated with the weak, the needy, the sick, the unclean, the tax collectors, etc. He is using this widow to again show us all that discipleship necessarily calls us to serve. Jesus’ disciples are not to exploit the poor and the powerless. They are to live the law of love that was taught in last week’s gospel. Do you think that the widow thought her ‘2-cents’ was worthless?
Neither widow gives very much. What is important about this? How can we apply these stories to our lives?