Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe

Today’s readings

Today we celebrate the great feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King of the Universe. In the past, I have said on this feast that it’s a little odd for us, mostly because we don’t have a king in our system of government, so it’s hard for us to relate. But lately, I’ve been thinking it goes a little deeper than that, because we have been conditioned to think that authority figures are someone we can ignore. And let’s face it, many authorities deserve to be ignored. Nobody in their right mind runs for political office anymore, it seems. Just look at the characters running for president this time: wouldn’t it be nice if even one of them was just not crazy?

But it even goes deeper than that. Nobody respects the authority of the Church, it seems, and to some extent, we probably deserve that too. Many priests and bishops have abused their authority and have abused their parishioners, and that is shameful. But even deeper than that, people both young and old don’t respect their parents in the way they should be. And when you ask people why they do something that is objectively wrong, they’ll often tell you, “I think it’s okay,” as if their opinion were the be-all and end-all of morality.

Some of this, as I’ve mentioned, is deserved, but much of it is a violation of the Fourth Commandment. Because here’s why: When we get used to ignoring the legitimate authority in our lives, we get used to doing our own thing. Then not even Jesus can be the Lord of our lives. And when that happens, we’re on the path to destruction, because he is the only one that can justify us, the only one who can redeem us. He is, as he says in another place in the Gospels, “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:16). Notice: not just a way, or one possible truth, or a good but not obligatory life, but The way, the Truth, and the Life. He goes on to say, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

So I think we definitely need this feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, to remind us that there is authority worth observing. And here, at the end of our liturgical year, we celebrate the one who is that authority. As we look back on the past year, there may have been times of great achievement, or times of failure. We may have celebrated life, or had to deal with sickness and death. We may have been blessed by wonderful, nurturing relationships or we may have had to deal with discord and strife. But if this year has meant anything, hopefully we can say that we have come through it with the help of Jesus our Savior, who is our Lord and King.

In today’s first reading, we have the promise of a king: one like a son of man with an everlasting dominion. This part of the book of Daniel comes from a series of visions. In these visions, particularly the one we have today, Daniel gives the Jews hope in persecution. This is a vision that is spoken to lift the people up and help them to know that their hope is in God.

The Jews of Daniel’s day have been being persecuted by the Greek tyrant, Antiochus Epiphanes IV. He and his henchmen were persecuting the Jews who insisted on living the Jewish way of life. But what is even more evil and more disastrous to the community, is that some of the Jews were starting to think that giving up their way of life and instead worshiping the gods of the Greeks was a good idea. They saw how powerful the Greeks were and attributed that to the gods they were worshipping. So, why not give up their own faith to follow one that seems to be working better? The biggest danger they faced was losing their faith, and really their way of life, to the pagans by adopting pagan ways of life.

Well, we clearly are not under the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, but we are definitely in danger of losing our faith to the pagan forces of this world. Just look at the terror and discord in the world today, especially the Christians being forced out of Syria – and many other places, I might add. Our faith and our way of life are in danger too. And that is to say nothing of the way that the secular culture around us threatens to devour us. We might find ourselves going along with that culture without really thinking about it. Everything that promises us power, success and wealth has the ability to take our hearts and souls with it. Why not just give in? Won’t paganism and evil win out in the end?

Well, Daniel sure didn’t think so. He prophesied that there would be one like a Son of Man who would triumph over Antiochus and others like him. This One would deliver them from the persecution they suffered and from the seduction that confronted them. This One would rule the world in justice and peace, and would lead the persecuted ones to a kingdom that would never pass away. The early Church identified this Son of Man with Jesus Christ. He is the One who has power to rule over all and he is the One whose kingdom is everlasting. He is the One who will overcome all of our enemies, even death itself.

Jesus told Pilate in today’s Gospel that his Kingdom was not of this world. That should be the red flag for us. When we begin to worship and follow the forces of this world, we know that we are in the wrong place, because as I’ve said many times, we are not at home in this world – we are mere travellers, on our way to our true home in heaven. Christ is the King, the Son of Man, who will lead us to a kingdom not made by human hands, a kingdom that will not pass away, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace. The choice is ours, though. Will we follow the pagan forces of this world, or will we acknowledge the authority of our Risen Lord and proclaim him as King of our lives and of our Universe and follow him to that perfect and everlasting kingdom?

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Today’s readings

Today we celebrate the great feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King of the Universe.  It’s one of those feasts that I think we can say, yeah, okay, I believe that.  But it really doesn’t affect me.  I mean, we don’t even have the political reference of being ruled by a king any more.  Not only that, I think we as a society have pretty much bracketed the whole idea of authority.  Basically if an authority gives us permission to do whatever we want, then fine, he or she can be in authority.  But the minute that authority tries to limit us in any way, then whoa: hang on a minute.

Yet there are times when we do want an authority.  Whenever we are wronged, we want an authority to give us justice.  Whenever we are in danger, we want an authority to bring us peace.  Whenever we are in need, we want an authority to bring us fulfillment.  But other than when we need something, we hardly ever seek any kind of authority.  Certainly not as a society, and if we’re being honest, not as individuals.  As an example, take the days after the tragedy of 9-11.  Our whole world was shattered.  I wasn’t here then, but I would be willing to bet the old church was filled to overflowing; I know my home parish was.  In those days, we wanted an authority to bring us peace and comfort and rest.  But now that we’re eleven years on the other side of it, look around.  Not so many people in the pews, right?  If Christ was the authority then, what makes him less of an authority now?  We certainly did not come through those harrowing days with our own feeble efforts, but when we don’t have buildings crashing down around us, we don’t seem to remember that.

Still, the Church gives us this important feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King of the Universe to remind us that there is an authority.  Christ is King in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  Christ is king of the Universe and king of our own lives.  And if that’s true, we have to be ready to live that way.  So no, we can’t just do whatever we want.  And no, just because we believe something with all our hearts, that doesn’t make it truth.  And no, the idea of living according to our conscience doesn’t mean that it’s okay as long as it works for me.  The world would have us believe that, but the world will one day come to an end.  If we want the possibility of eternity, then we have to be open to the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe!

In today’s first reading, we have the promise of the king: one like a son of man with an everlasting dominion.  This part of the book of Daniel comes from a series of visions. In these visions, particularly the one we have today, Daniel gives the Jews hope in persecution.  This is a vision that is spoken to lift the people up and help them to know that their hope is in God.  The Jews of his day have been being persecuted by the Greek tyrant, Antiochus Epiphanes IV.  He and his henchmen were certainly persecuting the Jews who insisted on living the Jewish way of life.  But what is even more evil and more disastrous to the community, is that some of the Jews were starting to think that giving up their way of life and instead worshiping the gods of the Greeks was a good idea.  They figured if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  So, why not give up their own faith to follow one that seems to be working better?  The biggest danger they faced was losing their faith to the pagans by adopting pagan ways of life.

We clearly are not under the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, but we are definitely in danger of losing our faith to the pagan forces of this world.  And there are so many seductive ways that pagan forces weasel their way into our lives and tempt us to give in to their power over us.  Relativism and intolerance for Catholic values seem to be winning more souls every day.  Everything that promises us power, success and wealth has the ability to take our hearts and souls with it.  Why not just give in?  Won’t paganism and evil win out in the end?

Well, Daniel sure didn’t think so. He prophesied that there would be one like a Son of Man who would triumph over Antiochus and others like him.  This One would deliver them from the persecution they suffered and from the seduction that confronted them.  This One would rule the world in justice and peace, and would lead the persecuted ones to a kingdom that would never pass away.

The early Church identified this Son of Man with Jesus Christ.  He is the One who has power to rule over all and he is the One whose kingdom is everlasting.  He even referred to himself as the Son of Man, and made it clear that he was the Son of Man who would suffer for the people.  He came to deliver those first Christians from persecution with the promise that he would indeed come again, and that same promise is made to us as well.

But the problem was, he didn’t return right away.  People lost faith, gave in to persecution, and just went with the powerful forces of the day.  The delay in his return led some to believe that he was not returning, and so they should just do what seemed expedient.  Why not go with the victorious pagan forces of the world? Sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it?

As we end this liturgical year and take a look back, maybe we can see some areas for improvement in our lives.  Much like the resolutions we may make January 1st, we may be able to make some resolutions for our spiritual lives in the coming liturgical year.  I don’t mean losing weight or getting more exercise: those you can make in the new calendar year.  But maybe in this liturgical year we could resolve to pray more or work for justice and peace, or reach out to the needy, or truly witness to the faith and live what we believe.  If we were to make some constructive resolutions for our spiritual lives, we could begin to take away the hold the pagan forces in our world have on us.  We could even proclaim with our lives that Christ is our King, personally, and also King of the Universe.

Jesus told Pilate in today’s Gospel that his Kingdom was not of this world.  That should be the red flag for us.  When we begin to worship and follow the forces of this world, we know that we are in the wrong place.  Christ is the King, the Son of Man, who will lead us to a kingdom not made by human hands, a kingdom that will not pass away, a kingdom of justice and peace, a kingdom of love and mercy, a kingdom of grace and comfort, a kingdom of eternal beauty and unfathomable joy.  The choice is ours, though.  Will we follow the pagan forces of this world, or will we follow Our Lord Jesus Christ the King to that perfect and everlasting kingdom, not of this world that will certainly pass away, but the kingdom of eternity and the live of heaven?

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, apostle

Today’s readings

Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the apostle. This is a feast that commemorates Jesus giving the servant authority of the Church to St. Peter, as we heard in today’s Gospel. This is a special day of prayer for the Pope, the successor of St. Peter among us.

It’s important to remember that Peter was not chosen because he was perfect, but instead because he was faithful. Even after he denied Jesus, he turned back and three times professed his love.  That’s an important lesson for us during this Lenten season.  We too may have failed our Lord time and time again, but he always gives us the opportunity to turn back, to profess our love, and to be part of his mission once again.

In today’s Scripture, Saint Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, the One who comes in God’s name. Making that proclamation is the task of the Church in every place, and in every age. We disciples are called to faithfulness, just as Peter was, we are called to conversion, just as Peter was, and we are called to witness to the authority of Christ in every situation: in our Church, yes, but also in our workplaces and in our homes. With the Lord as our shepherd, there is nothing we shall want in any situation.

Thursday of the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

So today we learn that just because we call on the Lord, that doesn’t mean that the Lord is at our whim, someone we can summon in the same way as we press a button on the remote and the television comes to life. That’s what the whole nasty business with Abram and Sarai was about. Instead of trusting the Lord’s promises that God would make Abram the father of many nations, they took matters into their own hands and then were displeased at the result. That’s what happens when we forget to trust in God and instead trust in ourselves and in our own ability to do something clever.

The same is true for the scribes and Pharisees, and also for the wanna-be followers of Jesus. They might claim mighty deeds in Jesus’ name, but Jesus can see their hearts and knows that they are not really open to the fullness of the Gospel. Simply crying, “Lord, Lord” will not get them into the kingdom of heaven. If they’re not willing to set their house on the rock solid foundation of Christ, they will not stand, and they will fall apart with the first of the storms.

And so we disciples have to be careful about our relationship with Christ. It’s not something we can neglect and expect it to be deep and rich enough to lead us to eternal life. We have to be people of integrity, spiritual people who know who our Lord is and who are open to the fullness of his teaching. He teaches with authority, not as the scribes of old, nor as the so-called authorities of our time – like Oprah or Dr. Phil. If we want teaching with authority, all we have to do is open the Bible, and fall in love all over again with this Lord who gave himself for our sakes so that we can all be one with him in the kingdom that has no end.