THE THIRTY-FOURTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR A


FEAST OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST THE KING


Taking Responsibility for Knowing the Mind of God

Inventory

Do you think you have at least a working knowledge of the way God thinks? What is his basic attitude toward people? What does he want yours to be? Is this attitude reflected in the way you treat people? All people?

Input

The Entrance Antiphon focuses on Jesus as “the Lamb who was slain.” Of all reasons, this is the one Revelation (5:12) presents to us as the reason why he “is worthy to receive… honor… glory and power.” This gives us a focus.


The Opening Prayer(s) put the emphasis on what Jesus accomplished through his suffering and death — and on how he wants us to get into harmony with his victory. God “raised our Lord Jesus Christ” to “break the power of evil and make all things new.” So we ask him to “open our hearts” and “free” us to make his new outlook on life our own: to find our joy “in his peace”; our glory “in his justice;” to make our life a constant living “in his love”; and our goal to “bring the whole human race together in Jesus Christ.”

The Prayer over the Gifts specifies that what we celebrate at Mass is the sacrifice by which Jesus “reconciles the human race.” The Mass will continue to bring about reconciliation in the world in very practical ways if we absorb its meaning as the repeated celebration (“making present”) of Christ’s death and resurrection. We ask that our participation in the Mass will be so active and enlightened that our way of celebrating will truly help to “bring unity and peace to the world.”


This unity and peace are what we are asking for when we pray, “Thy kingdom come!” This is what we are surrendering our hearts to when we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is the motivating goal of our efforts as we work to establish the “reign of God” on earth as stewards of the kingship of Christ.

How God Thinks


Ezekiel 34: 11-17 tells us what God’s attitude is toward the human race.

I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are scattered…. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered…. and I will feed them.... I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak….


The Responsorial (Psalm 23) puts it in a nutshell: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.God is loving and concerned and caring for all his people, wherever they are. And “wherever” means psychologically and spiritually, as well as spatially.


God also says, “But the sleek and the strong I will destroy…. I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats.” This will be echoed in the Gospel, and all it says is that God has standards we must live up to. He accepts us as we are and leads us gently and gradually toward perfection. The only ones who are ultimately rejected are those who have such a high opinion of themselves, the “sleek and the strong,” that they refuse to change — especially their uncaring and even oppressive attitude toward others. God is love. To associate with God forever in heaven we have to learn to love as he does. If the Lord is our shepherd,” and all Christians take on his mind and heart, soon every person on earth should be able to say, “There is nothing I shall want.” All will take responsibility for all as stewards of his love.

The Surprise That Shouldn’t Be


In Matthew 25: 31-46 all who are judged are surprised at what God says about them, the “sheep” as well as the “goats.” The good didn’t know they were that good; the bad didn’t know they were that bad. Surprise all around!


The good did not realize it was Jesus they were helping and caring for. The bad did not realize it was Jesus they were neglecting. But neither should have been surprised. The first effect of Baptism is to incorporate us into the body of Christ, so that, in the words of St. Augustine, we “become Christ.” And the Catholic assumption is that everybody has received this grace, by Baptism either of “water, blood or desire.” We don’t know this for certain, of course, but we know God offers everyone the grace of sharing in his divine life, so we just assume everyone we deal with has accepted it. And our faith obliges us to treat everyone with the love we give to Jesus himself. That is Jesus’ “new commandment”: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34; 15:12).


Judging from the sins that priests hear in the confessional, people on earth would be just as surprised to know today how God judges them as they will be when they die. The real sins — especially the really serious ones — are just never confessed.

From the confessions he hears, a priest would get the impression that there are few, if any, Catholics who are ever unjust in their business practices; none guilty of murderously polluting the environment; none who have ever participated in an unjust war or sinfully killed the innocent when it was legal (except for abortion); or approved of killing the criminal for revenge; none who have been sinfully violent against their spouses or children (since they deserved it!); and none who are teaching their children by word, example and the schools to which they send them, to conform to the accepted worldly values of our culture. There are no idolaters in the Church who give sports priority over family life or optional religious events. A priest hearing confessions in a high school or college will not hear about the things that will eventually lead a student to defect from the Church.


Nor is anyone confessing as a “sin of omission” that they do not help the poor and needy as much as their means permit; that they are failing to bear striking witness to the values of Christ through their lifestyle; that they are not really involved in seeking union of mind and will and heart with Jesus personally through Scripture reading and prayer, or with other people (sometimes including their spouses) through deep, personal sharing of thoughts, ideals and faith experiences. No one is failing in the Christian obligation to evangelize, to “seek perfection” or to work for social justice. The most serious obligations of Christianity are not matter for examination when Catholics prepare for confession.


Does that surprise you? Pass from the sheep to the shepherds. Whatever complaints people may have against priests, you could never guess them from priests’ confessions. There simply are no dictatorial, arrogant, lazy, uncaring, unjust, or legalistic priests in the Catholic Church! None are liturgically or theologically outdated. None legalistically narrow to the detriment of their flock. One doubts that any bishops were confessing the sin of covering up child abuse, although hopefully they know better now.


Most of us, clergy and laity alike, were not trained to judge ourselves by the word of God, much less the mind and heart of God, but only by codified rules and laws. These, by definition, hardly take us farther than the “righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.” No wonder that when a sin actually makes it to the confessional there is so much rejoicing in heaven! 1

Happy Ending


1Corinthians 15: 20-28 is the reading that focuses most precisely on Christ as King. It tells us that in the end, the mind of God will be the light and love of all:


Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father….


When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.


This is the answer to our prayer, “Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!” All will be of one mind and heart and will with God: not by force, but freely, by total understanding and love. This is what Jesus came to accomplish. It is to bring this about that we work as stewards of the kingship of Christ.

Insight

What does it mean for you personally to be in the service of Christ the King?

Initiative:

Accept your baptismal responsibility as a steward of Christ’s kingship. Look forward to the “end time.” Look around you always to see what needs to be done to extend the reign of Christ over every area and activity of human life on earth.


1 Matthew 5:20; Luke 15:7


View Today's Readings Here


Saturday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

The Responsorial (Psalm 144) calls those doing the work of the Lord to trust in the Lord: “Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!

In Revelation 11: 4-12 the angel promised John that God’s servants would be victorious; not protected.


The two “witnesses” (possibly an allusion to Peter and Paul, martyred in Rome under Nero) had their time of power on earth, but were eventually killed and left unburied — to let “the earth’s inhabitants gloat over them.” But after the “three and a half years” (symbol for any persecution, according to the Jerusalem Bible; cf. Luke 4:25; James 5:17) they “went up to heaven in a cloud as their enemies looked on.” Like Jesus, they were defeated on earth, by the standards of this world, but they triumphed both on earth and in heaven through the aftermath of their death.


God sometimes lets his holy ones exercise something other than purely spiritual power on earth — as Jesus did occasionally, though rarely (see John 18:6; perhaps Luke 4. Healing miracles and casting out demons would be “purely spiritual” power). But usually, like Jesus, they are eventually handed over in weakness to the powerful of this world to suffer and die at their hands.


This may be God’s method of keeping it clear that his way of establishing the reign of God is not the way of earthly power. Jesus did not come to be that kind of messiah (which is why his people, in the name of us all, rejected him). The only power he relied on, or taught his followers to rely on, is the power of truth and love.1 This is probably the Gospel’s greatest challenge to faith and hope. But those who can accept it proclaim unwaveringly, Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!1

In Luke 20: 27-40 the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, asked Jesus which of a woman’s seven husbands would be hers in heaven. What he answered, basically, was, “You don’t have any idea how things will be in heaven.” Everything will be so different that we cannot apply to life there the same limitations we deal with here.


We may think here that certain things are irrevocably lost or damaged. This is to forget what God is. “Nothing is impossible to God.”2 God gives, not only life but existence itself: nothing exists except in the measure God gives it being. And what God gives, only he can take away.


Jesus says, “All are alive for him.” We add as a consequence, “And can have that ‘life to the full’ that Jesus came to give.” We need to count on that.


As stewards of his kingship, we work to preserve everything and everyone God made. We never give up on anyone. Blessed be the Lord, our Rock!

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Find peace in humility and abandonment.

1 Matthew 16:21-26. 2 Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37.


View Today's Readings Here





Friday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

The Responsorial (Psalm 119) calls us to reflect on God’s promises: “How sweet to my taste is your promise!

In Revelation 10: 8-11 the scroll John is told to eat is “sweet as honey” in his mouth, but turns sour in his stomach. God’s word can be this way. If we just nibble on it, reading superficially, we can find Scripture an easy read: How sweet to my taste is your promise! But the test comes when we try to assimilate it into our lives. Then we might find we “don’t have the stomach for it.” If we apply God’s word to life, especially our own lives, we might find some of it too challenging. Something in us may want to reject it. Good!

This is good because when we start fighting God’s word we know we are taking it seriously. We are reading it, not just to feel good or see what it says about others, or what they should do, but to call our own attitudes, values and actions into question. Then the Spirit can say to us, “You must prophesy….”


To live out our baptismal consecration as prophets is to bear witness. And Paul VI says witness is primarily lifestyle: to live in a way that raises eyebrows. In a way that raises questions in people’s minds that can only be answered through the Gospel.


If we are not “prophets,” or witnesses in this way, we can hardly be effective as stewards of Christ’s kingship. Stewards take responsibility for changing things, for exercising leadership. But we cannot expect anyone to follow our suggestions if we don’t first lead by example. It is said, “In the eyes of God our words have only the value of our actions.” That is true in the eyes of people too. So to be faithful stewards we have to assimilate the words of God: digest them by using our intellects to understand what they mean and how they are relevant to our family and social lives, our work, church and political involvement, to our lifestyle.

In Luke 19: 45-48 Jesus is exercising leadership. He is acting both as King and steward of his Father’s kingship. He sees something wrong, something not according to the Father’s will, and he acts; he does something about it. He “entered the temple” and, seeing what was going on, “began ejecting the traders.” As Son he knew his Father’s will and defended his interests.


Jesus didn’t actually change the custom of buying and selling in the temple. The traders were back the next day. He didn’t try to impose what was right by power and force. But his action made a point; it started a reflection going, pointed a direction for people to follow. This is leadership.


Leaders may not have the authority to require changes (and authorities may not have the leadership qualities to win people to make them). For “faithful stewardship” it is enough to try.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward: build for the future in heaven and on earth.




View Today's Readings Here


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