Archive for November, 2011

Solemnity of Christ the King

November 22, 2011

This weekend brings to a close the liturgical year, and next weekend starts Advent, the beginning of the Church’s liturgical calendar. This is also the last weekend/Sunday in which we will use the current translation of the Mass. Next Saturday evening we will begin to use the new translation of the prayers at Mass. Today, being the end of the liturgical year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King: in the new translation, by the way, it will be called the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. (It has always had that name in Latin, as well as in other languages.)

Today’s Solemnity is relatively new on the calendar: Pope Pius XI established it in 1925. Pope Pius gave us this liturgical celebration as an antidote to secularism, which he already saw creeping into the lives of many in his day. He saw that people were beginning to think and live as if God did not exist. This feast was intended to remind people that Jesus Christ wants to reign over us as individuals, He wants to reign in our families, over society, over the world. As we shall see Christ is, in fact, Lord of everything, but He wants us to freely choose to allow Him to reign in our hearts in order to build up His Kingdom.

Although the feast of Christ the King is new, the idea that Jesus Christ reigns as King is not foreign to the liturgy. It is mentioned all of the time and in prayers that are ancient. Christ’s reign is brought up so often in the liturgy, that we can easily not even notice it. Many, many of our prayers at Mass end by invoking Our Lord and then adding the ancient conclusion: “Who lives and reigns . . . forever and ever.” Who lives, and reigns. Christ reigns at the right hand of the Father. He is Master and Lord of the universe.

Let’s look at the various ways that Jesus Christ is King of the universe. Jesus Christ is God; Saint Paul says that all things were created through Him, all things were created for Him. Together with the Father and the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ created everything that is. Without Him nothing was made that was made. He reigns, first and foremost, because He created us: He is our Creator, we are His creation. As Creator of the universe He holds supreme power over all things. In Him all things live and move and have their being. We are dependent upon God for our existence and everything that we have that is good comes to us from the hand of God; as a result we owe Him our thanks and praise.

Besides reigning by virtue of His Divine nature, Christ is also our Redeemer: He purchased us by His Precious Blood. The Eternal Son of God set aside the glory that He had from all eternity, emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, Saint Paul says. The One Whom the Angels adore, humbled Himself to be born of a Virgin in a cave because there was no room for Him in the inn: He came to His own and His own received Him not. He became a man, like us in all things except for sin, to fully reveal God to us and we, His creatures, put Him to death for it: He was Crucified to save us from our sins. He willingly laid down His life for you, and for me. He died so that we might have eternal life. By pouring out His Precious Blood on the Cross, He purchased us for God. Jesus Christ has purchased you back from the devil and the price that He paid for you was His own life. The life that you live is not your own: you have been purchased by the Blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ laid down His life for us and gives Himself to us in the Holy Eucharist; He wants something in return: our heart. God desires that we love Him, that we allow His will to reign in our hearts. Jesus Christ is King of the universe by divine right, be He wants your permission to reign in your heart and in your life.

Faith is an individual matter, it is my choice, it is up to me to faithfully follow Christ, or not; but we must also remember that faith is not merely a private matter. There are many in our society today that would hold that it is ok to worship in whatever way that I want so long as I don’t bring my faith into the public sphere. That reduces faith to something which is pointless. We are not just to be Christians in Church on Sunday and then park our religion at the door until next week. If I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, if I know that He has purchased me with His Blood, it has to make a difference in the way that I live my life everyday. Being a Christian means more than simply showing up at Mass on Sunday: being a Christian means being a follower of Jesus Christ all the time, always everywhere. All time belongs to Christ. Following Jesus Christ means living, thinking, making choices in accord with what Jesus Christ has revealed to us about God. If we believe that our faith is true, it has to have an effect on us. We don’t have to stand on soapbox on the street, but we do have the right and the duty to defend our faith, and to share our faith with others. Faith is a gift, and it is a gift that has been given to us, for ourselves but also for others. If Christ is to really reign in my heart, He has to reign in every part of my heart: He wants all of your heart. We are to love God with all of our heart, with all of mind, with all of our strength. That is the greatest commandment, and that commandment cannot be lived out in one hour a week, one day a week.

Let us renew our commitment to Christ that we will strive to follow Him ever more faithfully: Loving Lord Jesus, Redeemer of the entire human race, and King of the universe, look down upon us humbly present before You. We are Yours and we desire to belong ever more completely to You. We consecrate ourselves to Your Most Sacred Heart this day. Give us the grace to faithfully follow You, that we may be with You forever in Your Kingdom, where You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit: One God forever and ever. Amen

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 12, 2011

The Parable in today’s Gospel is focused on a topic that can be difficult to hear about: judgment. The point of Our Lord’s Parable is that we will all be judged by God based on what we have done (or not done) with the graces that He has given to us. Our culture doesn’t like the idea of judgment because judgment is generally perceived only as a negative. Judgment is often thought to be a harsh concept. In reality, we have to make judgments everyday; judgments are not always easy to make, but they are necessary.

We have to keep in mind that judgments are not only negative; we also make positive judgments. When we choose something or some course of action above another, we are saying that it is better than the other possibilities. When we give an award to someone, we are saying that we judge them to have done well. In the Parable today, Our Lord gives two examples of positive judgments before the negative one. Sometimes we can forget the positive judgments and focus solely on the negative, but if we forget focus only on the third servant and forget the first two, we will have a distorted notion of judgment. The first servant, who had received five talents, and the second servant, who had received two talents, both came to their master and said: you gave me these talents, see what I have done with them: I have doubled them. Those servants knew that they used the talents given to them well and they were proud of their accomplishment. They did not fear having to make a report to their master; they did not fear his judgment because they knew that their master would be pleased by their actions. And the master praised them: well done, good and faithful servants, share in your master’s joy.

When we do well, we like being praised for it. When a student gets a good report card, or when a sports team brings home the trophy, that is a judgment: it is a judgment that that person, or that team has done well what they set out to do. They excelled: they exhibited excellence. Only when we know that we have done poorly do we dread judgment. The servant who did not use his talent well, knew that he did not make good use of what his master gave to him: and as a result, he feared his master’s judgment.

Notice that all three servants were judged based on what they had been given. Each of the three freely received the talents according to his ability, and each was expected to do something based on what was received. Each servant was given what he needed to succeed; even the servant who only received one talent could have been successful, if he had been a faithful servant. Everything that we have that is good has come to us from the hand of the Lord. God has given us all the gifts that we have for our own enjoyment, but also so that we can build up His Kingdom. Each one of us has freely received and we will all be judged based on what we have done or not done with the gifts that we have received. We all have what we need to labor faithfully in the vineyard of the Lord: the question is whether we will use the gifts we have received wisely, or will we squander them.

It is good to examine our hearts: to ask ourselves what we have done with the gifts that God has entrusted to us. God has given us the gift of life: every breath is a gift from God. We can ask ourselves: What have we done with our lives? Have we lived good lives? Do we strive to put God first? Do I try to love our neighbor, or do I always put myself first? Have I tried to imitate Christ? As a Christian, I am supposed to be a follower of Christ: to follow Christ means to imitate Him. Have I tried to develop the virtues?
Besides the gift of life, we have also received many spiritual and material blessings. I have to ask myself: am I attached to material things? In other words: do material things hold the first place in my heart: are they more important to me than other people; are they more important to me than my relationship with God?
God has given each one of us many spiritual blessings: we have been given the gift of faith: we are able to know and love God because He has revealed Himself to us through Sacred Scripture and through His Church. Have we studied Scripture? How well do we know our Catholic Faith? Do we try to learn about our faith/do we study and pray with Scripture? Are we able to share our faith with others/are we able to defend our Catholic Faith? Our Lord said that we are to be light in the world: we are to help others come to know and love God and His Church.

God has given us access to His grace: He shares His divine life with us through the Sacraments. Do we appreciate these gifts and receive them with reverence and devotion? Do we do what we can to prepare our hearts to receive the Sacraments worthily? Do we thank God after we have received Him in Holy Communion; do we thank God after we have received Absolution in the Sacrament of Confession?

These are some of the talents (some of the gifts) that we have received from God. It is good for us to remember that one day we will be called upon to give an account of how we have used those gifts. Let us use well the gifts that God has given to us: if we do, we will have no fear of God’s judgment. Let use the gifts that we have received in a way that deserves praise: may we live our lives in such a way that when we come to the end of our journey, we may hear Our Lord say to us: well done, good and faithful servant: share in your Master’s joy.