Well, the cycle is almost complete. The liturgical year, which is 52 Sundays centering on salvation history and the redeeming actions of Jesus Christ, is coming to an end. Last Sunday we celebrated that Jesus Christ is the Lord of history realized by our very human expression “king.” Next Sunday, we begin a new Church Year on the first Sunday of Advent and this season will, of course, remind us of the time between Adam and Eve and the coming of Jesus. It was a time of preparation then and it should be a time of preparation for us as well as we anticipate the first great day in the liturgical year – Christmas.
The liturgical year is a great gift to all of us. It evolved slowly over the centuries and while there is a certain simplicity in its design, centering as it does on the three great feasts of the year – the birth of the Lord, the Nativity; his resurrection, Easter Sunday; and the commission of the Church to bring the good news to the world, Pentecost Sunday – there are ups and down with Advent and Lent being serious times of prayer and meditation and Christmas and Easter being short periods of exaltation and celebration. Ideally, in our own personal lives we should enter into those moods and create in our daily lives an atmosphere comparable to them; to think, pray and act in harmony with the Church. When we do this, we should be conscious of the fact that we are thinking, praying and acting in harmony with our fellow Christians all over the world.
We are never alone on this journey. Happy Thanksgiving!
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October 16th, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings are really interesting. The second one is the opening of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. It stresses the importance and power of Paul’s preaching and that is real history. Then the Gospel reflects in a delightful way that Jesus was not going to be tripped up by a group of Pharisees who are endeavoring to trap him and turn the people against him. However, I am going to skip those two interesting excerpts and go instead to the first reading, which is from the 45th chapter of Isaiah. It begins with an amazing statement, “Thus, says the Lord to his anointed Cyrus, whose right hand I grasp, subduing nations before him and making kings run in his service.”
Isaiah really puts Cyrus, the King of Persia at that time, on a high pedestal and points out that many of the great things that Cyrus accomplishes are really being carried out because of God’s will for his people. In this particular instance, Cyrus is allowing the Jewish people, who have been enslaved in Babylon, to return home. They had been overrun in the year 586 by the Babylonians and would now be allowed to return to rebuild Jerusalem and to yet again to build the temple.
Throughout their dramatic history, the Jews always had a strong awareness of God’s saving presence in their lives. In this instance, he takes a military and political figure and makes him an instrument in God’s hands. It is 2,500 years later and most of us certainly believe that still goes on in our lives.
As we go about our daily journey during these closing weeks of the ecclesiastical year, let’s try to be conscious of God’s saving action in our lives. It should be a source of great strength and confidence to us, but we need to discipline ourselves to avert to it more frequently.
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October 9th, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s Gospel, our Lord presents us with a parable of a king who decided to throw a great dinner in honor of his son and all the usual people, the “proper” people, were invited but for strange reasons those invited not only declined the invitation, but treated the king’s messengers improperly, ranging from indifference to violence. The king punishes his ungrateful neighbors but sends out yet more messengers to bring in guests from the highways and the byways.
This parable has multiple layers and applications. It reminds us that God’s love is a free gift and can be rejected. It stresses that His love is universal and goes out to everyone. It also points out that the invitees must respond properly in order to benefit from God’s infinite largess. Speaking just for myself, I am often conscious of God’s power, his infinite wisdom and other attributes that must be preceded by the adjective “infinite.” I must admit, however, that I don’t always think about the generosity of God. I think that I should give it more thought because I will be counting on it. Won’t you?
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Tomorrow the Church across the world will celebrate the glorious feast of the Kingship of Jesus Christ. In preparation for this, I began the subject last week, pointing out that although we use the word KING, we don’t mean that the Kingship of Christ is anything like the military or political leader as we have ordinarily seen on this planet. What the expression is trying to say is that Jesus of Nazareth, as the Son of God, has universal jurisdiction over all creation.
However, I would like to skip the term. Let’s go to the first reading, from the book of Ezekiel, in which the prophet describes the Lord God as a shepherd. A shepherd that takes direct care and for the sheep. We are those sheep, and our Shepherd cares for each one of us with infinite loving care. I feel confident that when I am face to face with God on judgement day I’ll be much more comfortable if He is standing there with a shepherd’s crook and not a king’s scepter!
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Today’s Gospel clearly indicates that Jesus’ journey is approaching an end. The saving events of that awesome week that we now call “holy” will unfold before us. The excerpt is from St. Luke’s Gospel and Jesus is standing in the Temple looking at a lot of tourists who are wandering through and admiring the greatness of the building. He warns them to not be impressed with a building that human beings have made because this is all going to come down, all is going to be destroyed! He then goes on to describe awesome scenes that will mark the end of the world. This is actually a collage because he describes some scenes that will occur in the next few years and others that referred to the end of time.
The important message for us as we approach the end of the Church Year is to realize that while the Church Year is soon to end, so are WE. Jesus warns us 2,000 years ago to live a life in which we would always be ready to face judgment. It is a tremendously important concept and that is why the Church presents it to us that every year of our lives we are told be ready, be watchful, be prepared.
Next week will be the last Sunday of the Church Year and on it we will celebrate that for which we have been preparing, namely an awareness of the fact that Jesus Christ is King, King of creation, King of our lives, Lord of salvation.
The followers of Jesus really do believe that Jesus Christ is King. When we say that we mean that it has great symbolic meaning. Jesus of Nazareth is not a political or economic king. He is not someone who has achieved authority or power over others in the human family. Though we believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord of history, that He is the one that John the Apostle refers to when he describes in his prologue, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God…and the word Was God…and the word was made flesh.” On this special day of the Church Year, we are asked to meditate on the reality of Jesus of Nazareth with a profound sense of awe and wonder. This human being of average physical stature for the men of his time, this man who would die hanging on the cross as a criminal and as an apparent failure, is truly Lord of all that exists, all that has ever existed, all that ever will exist and He is the Lord and savior of each and every one of us who believe in Him. We must endeavor to get our minds around this awesome truth, to struggle to grasp its meaning for human history and for us as individuals. Let’s celebrate the wonderful fact that Jesus Christ is KING.
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