Engaging the Gospel – Christ the King

Solemnity of Christ the King (Year C): Gospel – Luke 23:35-43

For the Solemnity of Christ the King, the final Sunday of the liturgical year, the Church presents us with a stark Gospel: Jesus on the Cross.

“The Cross is the paradoxical sign of His kingship,” Benedict XVI has reflected:

It is in the very offering of Himself in the sacrifice of expiation that Jesus becomes King of the universe…

But in what does this ‘power’ of Jesus Christ the King consist?…It is the divine power to give eternal life, to liberate from evil, to defeat the dominion of death. It is the power of Love that can draw good from evil, that can melt a hardened heart…

This Kingdom of Grace is never imposed and always respects our freedom….Every conscience, therefore, must make a choice. Who do I want to follow? God or the Evil One? The truth or falsehood?

November 22, 2009.

This choice is reflected in today’s Gospel, in which Jesus is reviled by some, but venerated by the “Good Thief.”

The Gospel dialogue reverberates to our own time, when the kingship of Christ is still subject to mockery and derision. Many in our culture commit the sin of blasphemy, “uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance” (Catechism paragraph 2148).

As members of the Body of Christ, we are called to shape our world, and transform our culture, in the light of the Gospel (898-99, 2105), and thus advance the Kingdom.

Question for reflection: How do I respond when someone mocks the Lord?

Engaging the Gospel – Good Shepherd Sunday

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year B): Gospel – John 10:11-18

The early Church cherished the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, melding today’s Gospel passage with Psalm 23 to reflect upon how the Lord tends and cares for us.

As Benedict XVI observed,

they recognized Christ as the Good Shepherd who leads us through life’s dark valleys…the Shepherd who also knows the way through the night of death and does not abandon me in this final solitude…The sheep that He lovingly carries home on His shoulders is humanity…In His Incarnation and Cross He brings home the stray sheep, humanity; He brings me home, too.

— Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 1, pp. 285-86.

At the same time, the role of shepherd also had royal connotations in the ancient Middle East, where kings described themselves as shepherds of their people. For this reason, the Pope Emeritus explained that “this image of Christ the Good Shepherd is a Gospel of Christ the King” (p. 272).

The Lord established that His sheepfold, the Church, would be guided by human shepherds (Catechism 754, 862).

St John Paul II commented on this solemn responsibility:

As He did with the first disciples, Jesus continues to choose new co-workers to care for His flock through the ministry of the word, the sacraments and the service of charity…The priest [is to] become a living icon of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who gives himself for the flock entrusted to his care.

Homily of April 25, 1999.

Question for reflection: When have I felt the Lord’s special care for me?

Act of Dedication to Christ the King

Line art for the Feast of Christ the King from the Campion Missal, courtesy of ccwatershed.org

Line art for the Feast of Christ the King from the Campion Missal, courtesy of ccwatershed.org

Most sweet Jesus,

Redeemer of the human race,

look down upon us humbly prostrate before You.

We are Yours, and Yours we wish to be;

but to be more surely united with You,

behold, we freely consecrate ourselves today

to Your Most Sacred Heart.

Many indeed have never known You;

many, too, despising your precepts,

have rejected You.

Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus,

and draw them to Your Sacred Heart.

Be King, O Lord,

not only of the faithful who have never forsaken You

but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned You;

grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house,

lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.

Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions,

or whom discord keeps aloof,

and call them back to the harbor of truth

and the unity of faith,

so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd.

Grant, O Lord, to Your Church

assurance of freedom and immunity from harm;

give tranquility of order to all nations;

make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry:

Praise to the Divine Heart that wrought our salvation;

to It be glory and honor forever.

Amen.

Engaging the Gospel: Epiphany of the Lord

Gospel – Matthew 2:1-12The Magi adore the Lord made manifest

“The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world,” as he is adored “by the wise men (magi) from the East” (Catechism paragraph 528).

Pope Benedict XVI commented upon the meaning of the magi’s gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh:

These gifts have a profound significance: they are an act of justice. In fact, according to the mentality prevailing then in the Orient, they represent the recognition of a person as God and King, that is, an act of submission. They were meant to say that from that moment, the donors belonged to the sovereign and they recognize his authority.

Homily of January 6, 2010

In the same way, the Catechism teaches that we “render to God what we as creatures owe him in all justice” (2095) – first of all, adoration:

To adore God is to acknowledge him as God, as the Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love…

To adore God is to acknowledge, in respect and absolute submission, the ‘nothingness of the creature’ who would not exist but for God. To adore God is to praise and exalt him and to humble oneself…confessing with gratitude that he has done great things and holy is his name. The worship of the one God sets [us] free from turning in on [ourselves], from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world.

Catechism paragraphs 2096-97

Question for reflection: In what ways do I adore the Lord?

Engaging the Gospel: First Sunday of Advent

With the coming of the new liturgical year, it’s a fitting time to begin posting about each Sunday’s Gospel reading.

Just as the ongoing Catechism summaries arose from an initiative at my parish, so did the weekly thoughts to encourage further engagement with the Gospel. This took the form of supplementary material to explore the Gospel’s theme, drawn from the Catechism and Blessed John Paul II or Benedict XVI, along with a question for reflection.

Accordingly, here is the one for Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent:

Gospel – Matthew 24:37-44: Be prepared, for the Son of Man will come unexpectedly.

The Church’s liturgical year begins with the season of Advent for a simple but profound reason: the liturgical year “in a certain way reproduces the whole mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption” (Blessed John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 10).

Hence the Church’s year opens by preparing to celebrate Christ’s birth, and it ends by recognizing Christ’s kingship over the entire universe. During Advent, as we recall His coming into human history, we logically also look ahead to his final coming at the end of time.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to be prepared, for the end will come unexpectedly — just as suddenly as the flood destroyed Noah’s contemporaries. Just as the flood marked a new epoch in the life of the world, so will the Second Coming radically transform all of creation.

“At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness…The universe itself will be renewed…Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, ‘new heavens and a new earth'” (Catechism paragraphs 1042-43).

“The form of this world, distorted by sin, is passing away, and…God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men” (1048).

Question for reflection: In what ways am I responding to the Lord’s call to “stay awake” and prepare for His coming?