24Nov 24 November, 2019. Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

1st Reading: 2 Samuel 5:1-3

David becomes king of a united people

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.

Responsorial: Psalm 121: 1-5

Response: Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord

I rejoiced when I heard them say:
‘Let us go to God’s house.’
And now our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem. (R./)

Jerusalem is built as a city
strongly compact.
It is there that the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord. (R./)

For Israel’s law it is,
there to praise the Lord’s name.
There were set the thrones of judgment
of the house of David. (R./)

2nd Reading: Colossians 1:12-20

A hymn to Jesus as the living head of the Church

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

The crucified Jesus is the King who leads into paradise

[Around the cross] the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at Jesus, 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.”


The Prince of Peace

While Jesus was being crucified, people mocked him as “the king of the Jews.” The inscription calling him by that title that was nailed to his cross, was meant to be ironic. Jesus had said to Pontius Pilate, “I am a king. I was born for this. I came into the world for this” but he also declared that his kingship was not of this world. Most people today find it hard to empathise with royalty. In the modern world the concept of kingly rule evokes authoritarianism, class distinction and a world of unjust, unearned privilege, but this is far from the biblical notion of kingship. The kingship of Christ is non-political, universalist and non-national. It aims at a special kind of justice, not based on fallible human laws, but to help and protect the weak, the poor and the helpless. If the justice of God was embraced by our world it would bring peace between nations, and between individuals.

People vested with royal and imperial power were at a loss in face of the moral power of Christ. Their reaction was to strike out blindly, to violently crush his threat to their power. Human rights and justice for many were trampled underfoot by the imperial power of Rome. To remedy this a fresh start was needed, something that Jesus wanted to bring, ultimately through the complete sacrifice of himself. Although Christ died in apparent powerlessness, his was the greater, spiritual power, to be revealed at the end of time. The repentant thief caught a glimpse of this when he called out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus used parables to explain the kingdom of God, evoking its mysterious presence in this world. For example, 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, in spite of seeming failure. 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,” wrote Saint Paul. Seemingly contradictory things occur in Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom. The kingdom is here and now, we are told and yet we are asked to look forward to its coming. But there is no contradiction if we consider that the Kingdom is both a present and a future reality. It is already here in part, but its completion is in some unknown future. As Jesus says, “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).

Getting what we deserve

A random act of kindness, a glass of water given out of goodness, seems like a very low threshold for a personal friendship with Christ. Christians have always had a strong trust in Christ’s humanity; he was like us in every way except that he did not sin. Although this Sunday portrays him returning in regal splendour, the judgments of Jesus are not like ours either. He seeks good among the ordinary and the bad alike; too often we seek bad among the ordinary and the good alike. For Jesus, the sinner who does a single act in kindness can be saved. For the rest of us, the saint that does something wrong is tarnished forever.

His hands stretched in forgiveness to those who had nailed them down. Ours often just point in criticism at the wrongdoer. The image of Jesus as a fair but stern judge is known by many Christians. Maybe some even who delight in the idea of wicked people getting their just deserts. Just as Jesus told the soldiers arresting him that his kingdom was not of this world; his standard of judgment is not of this world either. That should be good news, although not everybody sees it that way.

“Vengeance is mine,” said the Lord. Traditionally Christ has been represented as coming in majesty and power. From Michelangelo’s ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to the mosaics in many a church apse, that image is prominent in western art.  It is familiar because it is like what we do in every way, except that we don’t forgive. The classic picture includes tormented souls being dragged off to eternal flames.. It is likely that almost all of us have an idea of some of the people who should be in that category.

The 1970s musical Godspell gave another version of the judgment scene. In it, Jesus has second thoughts and brings the damned along too. They had sung a song asking for mercy and they received it. That is an image which is very much in keeping with the words of Christ the King: “Judge not and you will not be judged. Condemn not and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” He brings a different kind of rule, a rule where boundless mercy trumps self-righteous justice.

(with thanks to Fergal Mac Eoinin)

A Kingdom of Justice, Love and Peace

Paul says that at the end of time Jesus Christ will hand over the kingdom to God the Father. Our Preface repeats this, describing the kingdom as one of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice. love and peace. This vision is something to be promoted by us in the present. The kingdom is our hope, but it is also in our midst, in process of becoming. Jesus tells us how to promote the coming of God’s kingdom among us. It comes closer whenever justice is done for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and the oppressed. To act in this way is to imitate the Shepherd-King himself who rescues us from situations of alienation, who feeds, gives rest, heals and makes strong. At the end he was promising the thief being crucified at his side, that he would be brought to paradise.

The best way to honour Christ our King is to work to develope his project of mercy among us. Whatever we do to help the deprived and underprivileged is alse a service to Christ, who identifies himself personally with people in need. Following Christ the King is not the passive option of “keeping myself to myself” or “I do harm to anyone.” To ignore the needs of our neighbour is to close our ears to Christ. To turn aside from the anguish of the dying is to shut our eyes to him. If we follow Jesus Christ as our Shepherd-king we must in some way be shepherds ourselves, for his sake.

What kind of king is this?

Is the notion of kingship of any value to us, as democrats and republicans? Democracy, with all its complexities, is our preferred form of regulating society, business, law and order. Except in figurative phrases like “king of the road,” words like royalty and kingship, implying an absolute demand for respect and subservience, evoke a bygone structure of  inherited privilege and power. The so-called “divine right of kings” sustained this structure and favoured the suppression of individual rights. So if kingship is an unsuitable image for our times, how do we explain today’s feast, celebrating Christ as our king?

Would he suppress our right to self-expression and all other rights? When faced by Pontius Pilate, Jesus says clearly what kind of king he is. He tells the Roman Governor, “My kingdom is not of this world.” His rule is far removed from a dictatorship. This noble prisoner, robed in purple and crowned with thorns as a mock king before this ruthless Roman judge, claims a spiritual authority that has nothing to do with the power to compel by force. His authority is the authority of truth. He is our king, with authentic authority, because he lives the truth and has the power to lead others to the truth — the truth that can save them to eternal life: “for this I was born and came into the world, to bear witness to the truth. All who are on the side of truth listen to my voice” (John 18:37.)

Christ lived by the truth and died for it. His followers trust his guidance, as our king and shepherd. In his message, millions find inspiration for their lives, the truth which makes them free. Christ the King joins word and action in perfect harmony. Existential truth was vitally important to him, who hated all sham and pretense. To get deeper in touch with the truth may require some change in our lifestyle. It needs periods of quiet, even spending time with him in personal prayer. Truth in our lives needs the inspiration of Christ our King. A new commitment to him give us purpose, and a willingness to share. Far from oppressing us, Christ the King is the one who sets us free.

Cén Cineál Rí Atá In Íosa?

B’í an fhírinne an rogha is doimhne le h’Íosa agus fuair sé bás ar a son. Maireann a lucht leanúna faoina threoir mar Rí agus Aoire. Tré sholas na fírinne faightear inspioráid agus is tríd a saortar sinn. Rinne Críost Rí nasc idir focal agus gníomh, agus ba dhual do an fhírinne i gcónaí, is ba ghráin leis an cur i gcéill. Chun teacht í dtaithí na fírinne is gá dúinn athrú saoil a thabhairt orainn féin. Caithfear guí a dhéanamh faoi chúineas ina theannta d’fhonn inspioráid ár dTiarna Rí a lorg. Déanfar ár gcuspóirí a athnuachan le géilleadh Dó agus bheith fial le daoine eile. Ní dhéanann Sé leatrom orainn, ach isé Críost, Rí na Fírinne an té a shaorann sínn, go deimhin.



Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and companions, martyrs

Andrew Dung-Lac (1795-1839) was a Vietnamese priest ordained in 1823 and executed in 1839 during the persecution under Minh Mang. He took the name Andrew at his baptism and changed his surname to Lac to avoid capture, and so he is remembered as Andrew Dung-Lac. His memorial also celebrates all of the Vietnamese Martyrs of the 17th to the 19th centuries (162-1886).

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