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November 18 - December 1, 2012

As the liturgical year turns, trust in the kingship of the Lord

Perspectives on the Scriptures Father Patrick O'Malley

Solemnity of Christ the King: Nov. 25

Dn 7:13-14; Rv 1:5-8; Jn 18:33- 37

This feast marks the end of the liturgical calendar year, and it is the summation of all that we have been reflecting on these past 52 weekends.

Jesus the Christ is our King, our leader, our savior.

As has been pointed out over and over again, at the heart of our Catholic belief is not an idea, nor a philosophy nor a theology or ideology; at the center is a person, Jesus Christ.

He lived in first-century Palestine, preached the Kingdom of God in Galilee and in Judea, enjoyed some success, but was eventually seized by the religious authorities and turned over to the Roman procurator to be sentenced to death.

My old Irish pastor used to tell us, his brash young associates, stories of young priests who got in trouble with their bishop for one reason or another. It was meant to be a humorous warning to watch our ecclesiastical steps.

At the end of the story, we would always ask the monsignor what had happened to those priests. His reply, said with a twinkle in his eye and in his charming Irish brogue, was: “They died, Fathers, they died.” That ended the story. It broke us up every time.

Well, Jesus died, but that was not the end of the story. He rose from the dead, and therein did he experience glory. He rose from the dead, folks, from the dead! No one in all of history had ever pulled that off — and no one ever will again.

There began the reign of the one we call our King and Master. Obviously, Jesus is not a powerful political leader working behind the scenes in our lives. He does not operate in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms. He is present and alive to us through the Holy Spirit.

We have just elected a president to “reign” for the next four years. But, as I write this essay, who that man will be is still to be decided. It is to be hoped that, no matter what our political leanings, we will gather behind our president, our political “king” if you would, and work for the good of all in this country. Some say that such unity is a pipe dream. Perhaps, but it is a dream that we can still pursue.

The kingship of Jesus Christ is not a pipe dream; it is a spiritual reality in our lives. We savor this truth here at the end of one liturgical year and the beginning of another, and we too gather together in Jesus Christ to forward his kingdom.

We in the church, despite our differences, are arrayed around the altar and arrayed around Jesus.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.”

Let there be no room for disunity, though there are those who, by their actions, may provoke it. There should be no room for intolerance or marginalization, or prejudice or hatred. The prime example of how we should be and how we should act is Jesus himself.

Christ, our King, rule over us now and always.

First Sunday of Advent: Dec. 2

Jer 33:14-16; 1 Thes 3:12-4:2; Lk 21:25-36

A new liturgical year begins with this weekend’s Masses. During the coming year, we will listen to, study and pray over St. Luke’s Gospel, just as last year we dealt with St. Mark and next year we shall reunite with St. Matthew.

As we enter into this new year, I can utter no more fervent hope for you than these words: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” St. Paul wrote that line to the people of Thessalonica in his very first epistle written to the Thessalonians about 15 or 20 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. It suggests a goal we might set for ourselves at the outset of this liturgical year.

Customarily on Jan. 1, the beginning of the calendar year, many people make resolutions about various aspects of their lives. The cynical expectation is that those resolutions are made to be broken. That’s kind of sad when you come right down to it. We set ourselves up for failure from the very beginning. And the habits, outlooks, etc., we wish to change may well be worth a serious effort.

Even though we are beginning the liturgical year, our Gospel reading is from one of the final chapters of Luke’s wonderful first volume, his Gospel.

The book we call the Acts of the Apostles is his second volume and it is a running account of the very early followers of Jesus as they attempted to put the Spirit of Jesus into action.

At the end and the beginning of the liturgical year, the Gospel messages are meant to keep us on the alert. However, I confess a certain uneasiness with today’s Gospel reading. It is expressed in language that is not familiar to us and that Jesus does not often use. Yet this apocalyptic language is found in all three of the synoptic accounts (Matthew, Mark and Luke), so it behooves us to pay attention.

Once again, we are warned to be ready for whatever comes.

When Jesus came among us, he was the herald of the kingdom of God, the fulfillment of God’s promise made long before to Abraham and Sarah.

In Jesus, God’s world was — and is — breaking into our world to turn us upside down and inside out. Jesus offers us a whole new way of seeing this world and living in it. To explain that new phenomenon, he uses language that speaks of radical change. Nothing will be as it was before. Now, we are not talking about the distant future here; we are talking about what happens when we listen to and heed the message of change and repentance announced by Jesus. Our world will not be the same again; our outlook on the world will be changed.

Our conduct will reflect the Spirit of Jesus himself — a Spirit of justice and charity, of tolerance and understanding, of forgiveness and service. It’s radical, folks — totally unlike the values that our culture holds dear. That’s why Jesus warns us to stand secure before the Son of Man.

Trust him implicitly.