24th November 2013. 34th Sunday: (Feast of Jesus Christ, Universal King)
2 Sam 5:1-3. David of Bethlehem becomes king of a united country.
Col 1:12-20. A hymn to Jesus as the living head of the Church.
Lk 23:35-43. The inscription on the cross: Jesus is the King who leads into paradise.
First Reading: 2 Samuel 5:1-3
Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.”
So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord and they anointed David king over Israel.
Second Reading: Colossians 1:12-20
We give thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers-all things have been created through him and for him.
He himself is before all things and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Gospel: Luke 23:35-43
And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Pointers for Prayer
In his notes for the feast of Christ the King (at www.tarsus.ie) Kieran O’Mahony OSA offers the following helpful Pointers for Prayer for today’s feast:
1. Today’s feast puts before us Jesuswho never used power to his ownadvantage. Whom have you known who used power for the benefit of others rather than for their own self-interest? When have you used power in this way?
2. The power of God is shown in an unexpected way in the Crucifixion, not in a wonderful display of spectacular dominance, but in Jesus sharing our human weakness. When has the honesty of another sharing his/her human vulnerability with you had a powerful effect? When has your honesty in that way had a positive effect on another?
3. Jesus is an example of someonein apparent helplessness. It was histrust in the love of God with him that helped him through. It wasonly later with the hindsight of theresurrection that the moment of helplessness could be seen as on inwhich the power of God waspresent. Have you had experience son which you can look back now and see that the power of God was at work in your moments of helplessness?
4. The scene also puts before us the liberating power of forgiveness. The forgiveness of Jesus brought new life to the criminal hanging on the cross with him. When have you found that forgiveness given, or received, was a source of new life for yourself or for others?
Prince of Peace
At the trial of Jesus, Pontius Pilate asks him the question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” And Jesus answers, “Yes, I am a king. I was born for this. I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice” (Jn 18:37). But he also declared that his kingship was not of this world. Today it is only with difficulty that we can begin to understand the idea of the kingdom of God, or the Rule of God. To the modern mind the concept of kingly rule has overtones of authoritarianism and repression, but this was not so in biblical times. The kingdom of God is non-political and non-national. It is concerned with a special kind of justice, not based on fallible human laws, but with help and protection for the weak, the poor and the helpless. If the justice of God really operated in our world it would bring peace between nations, and between individuals.
In Jesus’ time, justice in many ways trampled underfoot by the rule of the powerful in the days of the Roman empire. To remedy this a completely fresh start was necessary, something God alone could initiate. This new element is what is meant by the kingdom of God, a kingdom which liberates from the forces of evil and would reconcile divided peoples. Although Christ denied that his kingdom is of this world, nevertheless he holds real power, which will be revealed at the end of time. It is interesting how people vested with royal and imperial power were at a loss when confronted with the moral power of Christ. Their reaction was to strike out blindly, to use violence against his threat to their power. For power is often recognised only by winning in a confrontation.
Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God in parables, in every one of which a mystery lies hidden. For example, to Jews the mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds, the most insignificant of all things. Yet out of it comes a huge tree. God’s kingdom comes in a hidden way, even in spite of seeming failure. But, as with the mustard seed, this small beginning holds the promise of a magnificent ending. “I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us,” St Paul wrote (Rom 8:18). At first sight there seems to be a contradiction between the present and the future in Jesus’ references to the kingdom. The kingdom is here and now, we are told and yet we are asked to look forward and in the Our Father pray, “Thy kingdom come.” Jesus gives the answer to this. “The kingdom of God does not come in such a way as to be seen. No one will say, “Look here it is,” or, “There it is,” because the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17:20f).
A Kingdom of Justice, Love and Peace
Paul speaks of Jesus Christ at the end of time handing over the kingdom to God the Father. The Preface of today’s Mass repeats this but describes Christ’s kingdom as one of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice. love and peace. This ideal is not to be merely a future hope but is to be worked for in the present. The kingdom is our hope, but somehow it is also in our midst, in the process of becoming. The gospel tells us how we are to promote the fuller coming of God’s kingdom among us. It comes whenever justice is done for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and the oppressed. To behave in this way is to imitate the Shepherd-King himself who is presented in our Gospels as one who rescues from situations of alienation, who feeds, gives rest, heals and makes strong. Among his final words was a promise to the thief being crucified at his side, that he would be enfolded by the eternal love of God, in paradise.
The way to serve Christ our King is to work for the coming of his kingdom. In working for the relief of the deprived, the oppressed and the outcast we are serving Christ in person, because he fully identifies himself with all those in need, right up to his final moment in this life. The disciple of Christ the King cannot afford the luxury of comfortably “keeping myself to myself” or “Well anyway, I do nobody any harm.” To be deaf to the cries of the neighbour in need is to be deaf to Christ. To be blind to the anguish of the dying is to be blind to Christ. To take Jesus Christ as our Shepherd-king involves becoming shepherds in some way ourselves; for the work goes on.