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Contents: Volume 2 - Christ the King – A –
November 26, 2017


 

Christ

the

King

2017

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Barbara Cooper, OP

3. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

4. -- Brian Gleeson CP

5. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

6.. (Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Christ the King 2017

The Gospel this Sunday is one that says ATTENTION! Be alert! Become more aware! Neither those who received eternal glory nor those accursed recognized Jesus in their lives. They did what came naturally to them. What? What did I say!!!?

Although we are naturally made in God's image and likeness and are inherently good, we don't always act that way. Bad habits seep into our lives. More astoundedly, those habits shape who we become.... and our destiny, often without our realizing it.

We kinda know that, but somehow we often do little to check our path to see if we are veering off course. Most of the time, and I think the Gospel confirms this, we just do not stop to think! We just go about our day, sometimes surviving and sometimes thriving, but not with enough reflection to know where our compass is pointing. Do we know where our journey will end? Will we know how we got there?

It is the end of the liturgical year, the Solemnity of Christ the King. As it closes and we begin preparations for Advent and Christmas, we need to take inventory of our alertness to a basic Christian belief. We believe that all people are good and deserve to be treated well. We need to increase our awareness that "as long as you did or did not do .. for the least of these" you did/did not do it to Jesus, the King of Kings, the One who will judge us.

What a different world we would live in if we each really took that to heart! We could begin within our families and expand our awareness to our work place, place of worship, and neighborhood. How different our conversation and facial expression might be! How much more of what we have (time, talent, and treasure) could we share!!

ATTENTION! Be alert! Become more aware!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Christ the King – A – November 26, 2017

The verses from Ezekiel end on a somewhat confusing note. Why would a shepherd destroy the sleek and strong sheep? To understand the message it is necessary to read the whole chapter. Those in power in Israel are abusive. They take the best for themselves without caring for those committed to their care. But they too are members of the flock, and will be replaced by the Divine Shepherd. As Ezekiel warns:

"20 Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, 22 I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep."

It can be very comforting in times of trouble to know there is someone loving, as well as strong, at your side.

Especially when death is on the horizon. I hope to "go" in my sleep without fuss and bother – just wake up in heaven and hope someone there has the coffee pot on. But looking for some light on the text from 1 Corinthians, I was reminded that for Paul, Jesus' death was not a matter of "falling asleep". The torture of death by crucifixion was relevant, real and present. Jesus died naked, broken and bloody on public display on a hill outside Jerusalem. He knows what it is like to be one of those sheep in Ezekiel who are bullied and pushed around by those more powerful, "sleek and well fed". He knows what this human condition is like. Not just theoretically, or even sympathetically, but as one of us.

The "Good Shepherd" of Ezekiel, who cares for his "sheep", becomes one with us in Jesus. He transcends boundaries of race, culture, gender, and identifies himself with all those who are poor, hungry, homeless, in prison, sick or alone. Those of us who enjoy having the "good things" in life, are not forgotten. We too, are one with Christ and have the mission of acting for the "Shepherd" - feeding, clothing, housing, healing, caring for those of us in need.

For Christ is all, and in all.

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 26 2017

Ezekiel 34:11-12 & 15-17; Responsorial Psalm 23; 1st Corinthians 15:20-26 + 28; Gospel Acclamation Mark 11:9-10; Matthew 25:31-46

If we pay minimum attention to the readings today we’ll hear each reading (except the Gospel Acclamation) mention two terms: king and shepherd. It seems strange that on this celebration of Christ as King of the Universe to speak of the King as Shepherd. Even in the gospel acclamation, which does not include the term shepherd, there is a reference there to shepherding. That acclamation mentions David, the idealized king of Israel. It’s easy, with all the pomp and circumstance of the reign of David, to forget he was a shepherd boy in the high plateaus of Palestine when Samuel came to anoint him king in the place of Saul. Saul, as we should recall, was the first king of the nation. He messed up badly and the final straw bringing about God’s rejection was when he consulted a witch and necromancer. Saul demanded she conjure up the ghost of Samuel so he, Saul, could determine his future. That was the end of Saul’s reign and he died soon after, choosing to fall on his own sword rather than be captured and paraded as a fool by the Philistines.

Even in the gospel acclamation we have reference to roles of king and shepherd. In our images we visualize the shepherd as one in the field, muddied by wet dirt, weary from trekking through the hills and valleys, thin from constant exercise, sunburnt and wind-burnt from exposure to the elements. By contrast the king appears in well maintained exquisite clothing, wearing jewels and crowned with a gold, jewel encrusted, diadem. He appears in our imagination as well fed and a more than a little plump from lack of strenuous exercise and labor. He would appear in charge and in control of his days while the shepherd would be victim to the forces of nature, the attacks of wild animals, and poor pastures and dried up water-holes. The king presents himself on an elevated platform in great pageantry while the shepherd walks in front of his sheep, scouting out the best places for his sheep to graze and be safe from predators.

How can we put both of these images into one person? In the ancient understanding of the expected responsibility of kings the king’s function was to work for the welfare of his tribe, region, or nation. It was not a position of luxury; it was not a position of honor. It was a position of heavy responsibility for his people. The king was the one who led the armies in protection of the sovereignty of the nation’s territory. The king was the one who maintained order and punished those who abused his people – whether the abuser were a foreigner or a citizen. The job of king was to establish culture and a harmony among the diverse interests of his people. What a wonderful role-model of political and religious leadership even for us now in this end time! What a difference it would be if our leadership were to view themselves as servants instead of an honored and pampered class deserving our adulation!

Citizenship has always been a driving force in all cultures and nations since the start of written down history. To be a citizen of the Kingdom of God is more than living in a particular geographic area. To be a citizen of the Servant Kingdom of the Christ is contrary to the world’s socio-economic culture from the very beginning of civilization in family and tribal groups. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations insists that self-interest is what drives economies and creates wealth through invention, through trade, through productive efficiencies, and through division of labor. It establishes classes of people, each class assigned to a particular role in an economy. That work of Smith’s has been the bible to entrepreneurs and giants in industry, banking, service, and commerce. Taking Smith’s thoughts to the extreme would lead us to believe that the successful people in the world are those who take advantage of every opportunity whether it be natural resources, invention, climate, or masses of laborers who struggle to provide for their families the basics of life, food, clothing, education, shelter, and entertainment. What most economic theory educators overlook is the first major book Smith wrote. Adam Smith was rewriting that book when he died. It was titled The Theory of Moral Sentiments. It was a study of what factors bind societies together assuring peace and order. It is often viewed as a counter to the portrayal of unbridled self-interest in Wealth of Nations. An oversimplified summary of his first work would be to say it speaks about compassion as the glue that holds societies together in peaceful harmony making it possible for self-interest to be pursued without conflict and without hubris. Only when society and the individuals in society are concerned for the welfare and well-being of all citizens is there an environment that allows for creativity. This focuses on the common-good of all for the equal good for all.

It would be an oversimplification of the gospel of Matthew this Solemn Feast to say Jesus tells us that citizenship in the Kingdom of God has to do with our being compassionate to our fellow humans. In this day of frightening changes in climate, many say we should also be compassionate to our mother-earth as part of being citizens in the Kingdom of God. This certainly runs contrary to unbridled self-interest which views all resources, all humanity, and all movements in history as opportunities for profit. In a time when vast amounts of monetary assets are used to play monetary games in stock markets, we are troubled that less and less available capital is focused on creating industries of benefit to mankind and the environment. Increased wealth of a few is increasingly less applied to the creation of opportunities for the persons at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Wealth that is allocated to playing a financial chess-game for the delight of wealth holders adds nothing to the common good. To these chess-players Ezekiel’s words should be a warning. "The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly." That’s a very bleak future for the sleek, the strong, the well-heeled, and the manipulators of wealth and power.

Ezekiel’s condemnation is mirrored in Jesus’s message. He speaks of those who live compassionately and those who live for their own gain and power. To view the right and left of the King as indicators of political allegiances is downright silly and worthy of not even a passing thought.

For the majority of us, the wonderful Shepherd Psalm used in our Responsorial Psalm this Sunday holds a sense of peace and rest. But we should notice that in each of the first verses of this beautiful and most popular prayer-song there is a reference to the struggles that exist for those who follow the shepherd. The words we shouldn’t over look are:

Want opposite full banquet table; repose opposite the notion of struggle; restful waters opposite a roaring surf or tumultuous rapids; right paths opposite slippery slopes and wet, steep, narrow paths; a table before me opposite the sight of the foes.

The good shepherd does not promise smooth sailing and well paved roads. Our paths through life are often bumpy and along perilous ridges. As we complete our journey, confident of the Shepherd’s presence, we are invited to sit at table with a host of others, all attended to by the shepherd who has guides to his banquet hall.

This Kingdom of God is already established but remains to be completed. From the foundation of the world, Jesus tells the crowds, the kingdom has been planned. It is God’s rule – that sounds like God is a taskmaster. But it’s not so much a rule as an energy that helps us along if we choose to engage, get in gear with it. The Kingdom has always been God’s plan. The record of God’s plan is available to us in the traditions and scriptures of the Hebrews and in the traditions and scriptures of the followers of Christ – Christians. In the Hebrew tradition, that presence was recognized by Abraham and his descendants, by Moses, by the Judges, and by the Prophets. They called it Loving Kindness. That is how God treated his people, the ones chosen to bring his reign into the world. In the message of the Son we learn of God’s unconditional love for us. That love God demonstrated in the visible form of the humanity of Jesus, especially known by his acceptance of the worst that can harm a person. And the Father confirmed that message of Jesus’s crucifixion and cruel death by raising Jesus up into a new life – body and spirit. That demonstration and confirmation are our hope and our model. The love of God for us and his unlimited compassion are how we are to follow in the Way of the Christ, Jesus our brother and our God. In this feast’s gospel we learn how we are measured in the choices of our living in his Way. We are to be compassionate as our God is compassionate. Failing to live a compassionate life brings us to the discovery of eternal unhappiness and distress at our failure to accept God’s love, his compassion.

This then is the reign of God – this is how it looks. In human life there is always struggle and conflict. Our response to our struggle and the struggle of others is to be compassionate and loving. There is an instinct of living by the rule of "what’s in it for me?". We have time on our side, we can change, we can grow, we can allow the energy of God’s kingdom to permeate our spirits and lift us up to a new understanding of what it means to be human, what it means to be alive, what it means to follow in the way of our Brother. We have an opportunity to be grateful for what God holds out in his hand for us.

The secular feast of Thanksgiving is a time when we pause, often with family and friends to reflect on what we are, what we have, and the opportunities the gift of life offers us. Not only around the loaded table but also on our way to the feast, in quiet moments of prayer, we have the opportunity to increase the energy of the Kingdom of God in our lives. May our celebrations focus on gratitude and compassion for those in need.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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HONORING AND SERVING JESUS CHRIST OUR KING

In the Preface to our Eucharistic Prayer today, we’ll hear the kingdom of Jesus Christ described as ‘a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace’. Recently I heard this true story. A little five year old boy from the prep grade at St Mary’s School rang the doorbell of St Mary’s Parish Centre. He was about to go with his family on a holiday to India, but before setting out he brought all he had saved up for the holiday - $13.50 - to the parish. ‘Give it to buy a Christmas present,’ he told the Parish Secretary, ‘for some poor child.’

Surely in a selfish world that’s inspirational! Even though only five years old he was already taking seriously the values that Jesus both taught and practiced - truth, justice, and love. He was recognizing already that Jesus is both king of his life and king of the whole wide world.

In our gospel today Jesus describes the General Judgment that will take place at the end of the world as we know it. He makes it clear that as king of the world he will be the judge. He also makes it clear that the standard of judgment is this: ‘as long as you did this to one of the least of these brothers [or sisters] of mine, you did it to me.’ Or, on the other hand, ‘in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me’.

The basis of judgment of Jesus on our lives, then, is, our love for others, our practical charity shown in care and kindness. To hungry people, thirsty ones, newcomers and strangers, those without enough clothes, sick persons, prisoners, and other shut-ins, persons in everyday need in one way or another! (Let me add that even as I echo those words of Jesus I am shuddering inside about my failures to love and help others in need as much as I possibly could).

Was it not to bring in a new world of overflowing compassion that Jesus called ‘the kingdom of God’ the very reason that he came among us, and the very reason that he stays with us? Did he not come to bring an end to all hostility, all wars and all terror? Did he not both live and die so that people might be set free from hunger, poverty, want and disease? Did he not come down to earth to change our hearts, to rid us of all evil and sin, to redeem, liberate, and transform us? Did he not come to bring in justice, joy, peace, health and wholeness? Did he not come among us to change our world for the better, to make God’s kind of world happen, to make come true God’s dream for a new and better world?

So his kingship is not about wealth and power. It is not about domination and control. It is not about military might and conquests. It is not about border control and national security. It is not about pomp, palaces, splendor and magnificence. The kingship of Jesus is about truth and honesty. It is about goodness and generosity. It is about service and self-sacrifice. It is about justice and love. It is about mercy and care - mercy and care for all people, but especially for those who are poor, broken-hearted, wounded, neglected or ignored.

At the trial of Jesus, Pontius Pilate found it very hard to practice both truth and justice. Witnessing to the truth in particular was something that Pilate was finding particularly hard to do. He had already found Jesus innocent. Were he to have acted on that truth, surely he would have set Jesus free, and done so there and then. It seems, then, that while he might have been sincerely concerned about Jesus’ safety, he was not concerned enough that Jesus was completely innocent. For when it was in his power to do so he refused to act on the truth of the facts!

What about us? Do you and I qualify as subjects of his kingdom? Do we belong to him or not? Do we call him ‘Our Lord’’, and if we do, do we really mean it and live it?

Today our current liturgical year is coming to an end. Next Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent, and the start of the Year B Cycle of Readings. Today, Jesus Christ our King is inviting us to bring this year of the Church to an end by choosing him once again as our Lord and Saviour, and sincerely submitting to his wise and gentle rule by rededicating ourselves to live his teachings and values.

With the help of his ‘amazing grace’, are you and I ready and willing, then, to renew our commitment to him during the rest of our prayer-time together today? Let’s make that commitment now, and make it from the heart as genuinely as we possibly can, all the time trusting in the power of his ‘amazing grace’ to support us in our dedication to him!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Year A: 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Plan A)

"All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left."

"I know what heaven is like," said Freya, age 11¾ with a beatific smile, a-bubble with the grace of a much loved child.

I smiled fondly as I remembered those dear dead days almost beyond recall when quarter birthdays were celebrated and I too thought I knew something about theology. I too was young once, you know!

"So what is it like?", I asked obediently.

"It is when everyone understands your heart," she said. "When everyone understands why you said what you said and why you did what you did. And everyone knows that you meant to do your best."

I smiled indulgently and thought over what a nice idea that was. And went away thinking that it might have the makings of a nice pious homily – something of which I am commonly in urgent need.

Only later in the day did I think of the horrible corollary. For this heaven, there is also a hell - the place where everyone actually does understand your heart - where every little lie, every compromise, every half deceit of life is also known. A day when everyone understands my heart, both for good and ill. A day when everyone understands exactly why I said what I said and why I did what I did. And knows that maybe I did something less than my best. A day when reputations will be shredded, both bad and good alike.

And ever since young Freya said that, that has also been my image of the day of judgement. It is a place of final truth, standing before the Lord who consecrates us in the Truth.

A day when we discover that some people we thought were goats turn out to be sheep. And when some sheep, to the shock and horror of so many people who thought they knew them, turn out to be goats.

But, and maybe this is only me, but somehow I just don't think so. I think we will be saved by our own selfishness. On that day, I think that none of us will be at all concerned about what other people turn out to be like. We'll all be too concerned with how we ourselves look. How people look upon our own suddenly revealed weaknesses, failings, sins and omissions. And because each of us will be so concerned with ourselves that we will have no time to pay attention to the sins and failings of others.

Actually, come to think of it, maybe Freya was right, maybe that will be heaven after all.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who is more merciful to us than we are to ourselves – let alone one another.

Year A: 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Plan B)

"As much as you did it to the least of these little ones, you did it to me."

I have a friend who is a professional fundraiser. Like professional politicians and professional journalists, professional fundraisers are commonly regarded by a cynical public as professional liars whose only contribution to society is to part the gullible from their money – a kind of Darwinian economic determinism. That is, of course, when they are not morally blackmailing overly generous little old ladies to the point of suicide. (Sadly, there are real such examples.)

But my friend assures me that it is not so – at least not all of the time; or at least not these days; or at least not where he works.

I asked him to explain – and so he did. He told me that he had left university with a lower second class degree and drifted into fundraising because he was "good in the pub". But, even in fundraising, it would appear, being "good in the pub" is not sufficient to guarantee career success. The clue is in the job title. You actually have to raise some money. And this he was not good at. He was good at meeting people, enjoying their company, having them enjoy his company, working the conversation around to the needs of the charity that he represented; getting them interested, even excited, in the work of his charity. He could do it all, except for that last little bit. He could not actually ask directly for money. Something prevented him, held him back from actually persuading people to part with their money for the cause which he represented. And even when he overcame his reluctance and tried, he came off as an importunate and demanding beggar who simply alienated.

At the end of his six-month probationary period, he was kept on, but his probation was extended a further three months. At the end of that time, he received a written warning about his performance and his probation was extended – he was assured one last time – for a further three months. He did not know what to do, so he did what men generally do only as a very last resort, when there is nothing left to lose. He asked his girlfriend.

They had known each other for some years, but Gillian did not really understand what he actually did as such. He tried to explain and found it difficult. So she put the questions very simply:

"What does the charity you represent actually exist to do?"

To which he gave the pat answer, "to improve the lives of the children in our care."

"And how exactly do you really do that?"

And Adrian was about to give his stock answer to that question when he realised that actually the only truthful answer was that he didn’t really know. He knew what he was supposed to say; but he didn’t know what was really true.

He prayed about that little bit – yes, he was that desperate! – And he formed a little resolution. He had a couple of weeks holiday coming up – he and Gillian had been intending to go away somewhere, but he hoped she would understand. And he went and spent it volunteering in one of the care homes of his own charity.

When he came back, his world had changed, changed utterly. Yeats would have said that a terrible beauty was born. He now knew why the charity had been founded – not just its history, but the immense and urgent human need it had been set up to meet. And he knew why it needed to continue – with his own eyes he had seen; with his own ears he had heard; that need had not gone away and, in recent years, had grown far beyond the existing resources of the charity to meet. And he had found his own place in making that happen - the difference he personally was called to be. It fell into his lot to be the person who asked – begged, borrowed and otherwise obtained - the resources that the charity needed to fulfil its mission. It was not his job to be the one looking after the kids – two weeks of that had very nearly killed him. But it was his job to make sure that some of the finest human beings he had ever met got to go on doing that. And he finally knew that he got it right when, one evening, (admittedly with the assistance of a couple of pints of London Pride) he was finally able to explain it in simple unequivocal terms to Gillian in a way that she could both understand and respect.

To this day, as all beggars do, he expects and experiences rejection. He tells me that it never troubles him. He gets knocked down; he gets up again. Chumbawumba would be proud of him. Because now he knows wherefore he begs.

Thinking of this passage of scripture, I once told him that he had great faith. He was embarrassed, laughed and went off to buy another round.

But Gillian smiled.

Let us pray that each of us may also find our place in the service of Christ the King.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John
 


 

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