Fr. Alex’s Corner, November 25, 2018
THE SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING
“The kingdom of this world belongs to
Our Lord and His Christ –
and He shall reign for ever and ever.
All the families of nations shall bow down
before Him, for the Lord is our king.”
(Rev 11:15; Psalm 22: 28-29)
And so we come to the 34th and last Sunday in “Ordinary Time,” and by rather recent tradition, the Feast of JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE.
We Americans say that we are not into kings and queens, yet we crown everyone and everything from homecoming queens to Triple Crown race-horses and treat as royalty our movie stars and sports heroes. And what about Burger-KING! So let’s not even go there.
The Jewish people of Jesus’ time fully expected a Messiah-king. Prophecies said he would be of the house of David, the greatest King. When they welcomed Jesus into the royal city of Jerusalem on that first (Palm) Sunday, He was riding on a donkey. A camel would have been more king-like, but they waved their palms and welcomed Him as a conqueror-king. The sign over His head on the Cross proclaimed, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. What happened between Sunday and Friday was anyone’s guess. But what was coming on the Sunday following would change the world. A new KING was definitely in town!
On that following Sunday, He rose from the dead, returned to His friends, and sent them on a mission unlike any other: to proclaim the Kingdom of God. He was, indeed, a King – unlike any other.
In the early days of Christianity, when images of Jesus on the Cross appeared as art, one never saw the suffering, naked, bruised and bleeding Jesus on the Cross. That was too painful to look at. Crucifixion was, after all, for criminals. When Jesus was portrayed on a cross, it was either in royal vestments, kingly-crown and all, or in jeweled priestly vestments. He was the High Priest who conquered from the Cross.
It took centuries for artists to paint the suffering Christ in the images we see today. It was indeed our Franciscan tradition to portray Jesus as a suffering Savior. Jesus was God who humbled Himself, taking human flesh, born into poverty, and dying like a criminal. The Stations of the Cross devotion is the traditional Franciscan response to the Son of God becoming a human person.
Fast forward many centuries…. Many “Christian” countries were ruled by kings and queens who considered themselves “the anointed ones” of God Himself. From the 1700’s, through political upheavals many of these nations divested themselves of royal rulers and their Christian identities as secular philosophies and “modernism” served as the underpinnings of new government styles. This is, of course, a huge generalization, but I mention it because by the beginning of the 20th Century, Pope Pius XI, felt the need to remind all Christian people that Jesus Christ and His Kingdom must be acknowledged. He established the Feast of Christ the King to proclaim that whatever our political traditions, “all the families of nations shall bow down before Him, for THE LORD IS OUR KING. Holy Year 1925 was dedicated by the Pope “to restore all things in Christ,” following a devastating World War fought by formerly Christian countries.
To say that the rise of secularism, nationalism, global strife, and the violence we see on our own city-streets, cries out for peaceful solutions is an understatement. If we believe that God created us with a purpose, we must try to understand that purpose. Jesus came precisely to teach us, to lead us, and to save us when we go astray. That’s His Kingship. That is His Kingdom. We embrace it as our destiny; we reject it to our peril. It really is up to us: Who is our King? What is our Kingdom.
LONG LIVE THE KING!
Fr. Alex’s Corner, November 18, 2018
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
“It’s your Church, Lord. Watch over it.
I’m going to bed.”
(Night Prayer of Pope St. John XXIII)
And then there is the story of the guy who has had one too many and was thrown out of the saloon. He cut through the cemetery to get home, but it was dark, and he stumbled into an open grave. There was nothing to grab to climb out, but he figured that, come morning, cemetery workers would be there to help him. So he just sat down and fell asleep. The bright sun woke him early the next morning, and, of course, he did not remember anything from last night. He stood up and his head was above the grave as he looked and saw grave stones all around him. He thought for a moment, and cried out: ”Halleluia! It’s Resurrection Day, and I’m the first one up!”
We might need a laugh or two this weekend. There is much in the news to disturb us. Here in California apocalyptic fires continue to take their toll. It is heart-wrenching to watch the victims checking on former homes and searching for missing relatives. Numbers of the dead increase daily and there is a housing shortage for those who have lost everything. Violence continues and the Caravan of refugees approaches the border and everyone holds their breath: what now! The priest sex-abuse and cover-up crisis continues to discover and depress. And today’s Scripture Readings are APOCALYPTIC.
We are at the end of the Liturgical Year. Although our thoughts are directed to the Second and triumphant Coming of Christ, our Scripture Readings are filled with predictions of the cataclysmic end to creation as we know it. Destruction comes before rebuilding. That is frightening. It’s meant to be.
Our First Reading speaks of the heroic Daniel and his companions who were miraculously saved from death in a fiery furnace because of their fidelity to the God of Israel. Historians date this revelation two centuries before Jesus’ birth, when Israel and all its traditions were under attack by a foreign king. In the Gospel Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and again, historians claim that Mark was writing his Gospel around 70 A.D., when Rome was destroying Jerusalem, the Temple, and Jewish hopes for a better world.
Apocalyptic revelations were meant to comfort the people in times of crisis that no matter what was happening around them, God was with them. In the end, the Son of God would come again, this time in glory and power. That is the REVELATION!
My Mom often commented, “I think the world is coming to an end,” when she heard about floods, fires, and wars. I always reminded her that Jesus warned us against such fears. But, you know, as I look around and see so much sorrow, I wonder….
This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is time to be thankful for what is. But so many are hurting, so many are angry. That’s why that “Night Prayer of Pope St. John XXIII” quoted above struck me. You think “St. Juan-Two-Three” was on to something?
It takes a lot of faith to keep on truckin’ when the road is rough. Someone said that many of us don’t really meet God until we are at the end of our rope. Well, when we are at the end of our rope, God is a good person to meet. I think of the story of St. Peter walking on the water towards Jesus (Matt 14: 28-34). As he feels the wind and waves, he begins to sink. It is only when he looks to Jesus that he is able to rise above the storm and be saved. There is a lesson there: keep your eyes on the Lord. “I can’t. He can. With Him, I can.”
By all means, on this Thanksgiving Day, give thanks and praise to the Lord for the good things. And then, have faith that, with and in the presence of the Lord, we will be ok. If Peter can walk on water, we can walk through our storms. But keep your eyes on the Lord. Remember, it’s His world, it is His Church, and we are His People. And He loves us!
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Fr. Alex’s Corner, November 11, 2018
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Thank you for your service.”
“Eternal Rest Grant Unto Them, O Lord….”
Today is Veteran’s Day. On this day, 100 years ago, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, hostilities ended in what is known as World War I. It is estimated that 7 million civilians and 10 million military personnel died in a war between neighbor-nations, many of them Christian. Other estimates claim 37 million dead. Some countries felt their business was unfinished, and so came World War II with a loss of 60 million. Today’s holiday was known as Armistice Day until it was changed to honor those who died in combat during the First World War, and still later to honor all Veterans who served in our military.
And on this holiday weekend in beautiful sunny California, all American Flags once again fly at half-staff to acknowledge the shooting in Thousand Oaks, CA, where on Wednesday evening another madman walked into a dance hall, killed 12 and injured 23. Those flags just returned to full mast after the Pittsburg Jewish Synagogue Massacre. Our newspapers and internet once again show the young, smiling faces of kids, really, who took an hour off from their studies or work to go to a club for pizza and a beer. Some were not old enough for the beer, but that didn’t disqualify them from instant death from a mad gunman. Their pictures and beautiful smiles evoke from us a gut-wrenching sob. Dear God, how many more…?
Why am I offering a daily Holy Hour for an end to terrorism “in the world” when in my home country we have armed the population and continue to spew anger that sends bullets flying on home soil? I don’t get it.
What is it about “getting along” with others that seems so impossible? I grieve for the bruised and crippled America that we are passing on to our kids. This is not America the Beautiful that my immigrant grandparents handed on to me.
I just examined a copy of Washington Post’s front page from Saturday, November 12, 1921. It described the burial of the Unknown Soldier at our Arlington National Cemetery. The nation grieved the loss of life. Military and political leaders marched in tribute. Even former President Woodrow Wilson, crippled from a stroke, came in a carriage to honor the Unknown and the “Knowns” as well. Everyone cried “no more war,” just as Pope Paul VI would echo at the United Nations in 1965.
What is it in human beings that needs to kill or needs to be ready to kill? It’s not new. My Bible has almost 1500 pages and the first murder of a brother by a brother is recorded on Page 4. What is it?
It is a good thing to say “Thank you for your service” to those who served our country. It is also a good thing to pray for the dead who gave their lives.
But it would be even better for every one of us to do acts of random kindness to show our concern for one another. We must also realize that WORDS MATTER and we must hold our leaders, as well as our children, and OUR VERY SELVES accountable for the words we use and thoughts we share. To normal people, words are just words. But for some, words can be a tipping point to violence.
The greatest “Thank you” we can offer to those who gave their lives for peace in the world is to dedicate our lives to peace in our midst. Anything less is hypocrisy.
In today’s Gospel Jesus praises a poor widow who gave “what she could” to continue the good works of the Temple. Nothing big. No trumpet fanfare. Just what she could. Jesus declared “it was good.” That’s what God said when He looked at His work at the end of each day of creation.
Can we do that? “Just what we can….” PEACE
“Please, Lord, no more smiling faces of dead kids on page one. It hurts too much.”
Fr. Alex’s Corner, November 4, 2018
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
“…LOVE the Lord your God…,
and LOVE your neighbor as yourself.”
(Mark 12: 30-31)
That Scribe was asking Jesus which religious law was the most important. There were 613 prescriptions in The Mosaic Law. There are over 2600 paragraphs in the Catholic Catechism. Is it any wonder that a person would ask “which one is The One?” Jesus responds that it’s all about LOVE! Love God and love the person next to you.
It’s odd that a language as developed as English has only one word for “love.” Even primitive languages use different words to distinguish the kinds of love and their objects. In English, it’s all the same. I LOVE broccoli. I LOVE sunsets. I LOVE my Mom and Dad. I LOVE my wife (still looking!). I LOVE God. So of the things I LOVE, some I eat, some I watch, some bring beautiful memories, some make me tingle, and One I absolutely adore!
I remember when President Carter visited Poland and he said “I love the Polish people,” and the word his translator used rendered it “I feel lust for the Polish People.” “Former” translator, that is.
And yet, Jesus makes it clear. LOVE is it. Jesus is not talking about a feeling. He expects love to be giving. Robert Louis Stevenson said “you can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.”
There is a tender story in “Chicken Soup for the Soul” about a young boy whose sister, Lisa, was very sick. He loved his little sister and saw how worried his Mom and Dad were about her. A doctor told him that Lisa would die unless she received a blood transfusion from someone whose antibodies could fight the disease, and he had that kind of blood. Would he share his blood with her? He thought about it, and agreed. Once the transfusion began, Lisa began to gain some color on her face, and the doctors and nurses and his Mom and Dad were overjoyed. The doctor came and thanked the boy for his bravery and sacrifice. At which time he asked the doctor “is this when I start to die?” You see, that little boy thought he’d have to give all his blood – and die. But he loved his sister, and his Mom and Dad so much…. WOW!
That story is supposedly true –but heroic. How about this one? At the supermarket I saw an elderly lady in one of those self-driving shopping carts. I could not pass her because the aisle was not wide enough for her cart and the one I was pushing. So I reversed, only to meet her in another aisle. But this time I saw a young boy walking behind her, and I watched. Whenever she could not reach an item, he got it for her. He did that several times. After checkout, I called his mother aside and told her how I had seen him helping that elderly lady. The Mom told me he was a 10th grader at the local high school, and “he’s a pretty good kid.” I told her “he’s more than a pretty good kid. He’s a treasure.”
You see, I and some other shoppers saw the lady in the cart as an obstacle to our activity. So we kept avoiding her. For that boy, she was someone who needed help. And so he helped. (What would Jesus say?) Did that alter the course of history? I doubt it. But I’ll bet God was smiling that day.
How we “love” God requires more discussion. But how we “love” our neighbor? Well, Lisa’s brother and the teen at the supermarket show us.
At a time when we see others as either in-laws or outlaws, we need to think about this. Other people – whether they live next door or are another kind of “neighbor” - are not obstacles in our life. Jesus makes it very clear that what we do for them, we do for Him. For that, we go to Heaven. If we don’t do things for others, we refuse doing it for Him. For that, we can go to Hell. Hey, I didn’t say it. He did. Check Matt, Ch 25. That’s where Jesus connects LOVE with giving, both to God and neighbor.
A word to the wise: We’d better LOVE something more than broccoli!