Sunday Scriptures: “The Fear of Man is a Snare”

Proverbs 29:25Today’s readings feature God’s admonition to the “reluctant prophet”, Jeremiah:

The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

But do you gird your loins;
stand up and tell them
all that I command you.
Be not crushed on their account,
as though I would leave you crushed before them;
for it is I this day
who have made you a fortified city,
a pillar of iron, a wall of brass,
against the whole land:
against Judah’s kings and princes,
against its priests and people.
They will fight against you but not prevail over you,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.

– Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19 (NAB)

The New American Bible translates this passage somewhat differently than many other versions. Most have God saying something like this to Jeremiah: “Don’t break down before them, or I will break you down before them “. The NAB rendering comes out much more reassuringly: “Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them” (Jer 1:17).

Jeremiah is not on his own. It is God himself who will “fortify” him as “a pillar of iron, a wall of brass”, in order to speak God’s truth to whoever Jeremiah is sent to, without “human respect” – the fear of “what they will say, what they will do”.

We need this courage from God too, in order to boldly hold and profess our Catholic faith in the midst of an often Godless world. But we must live and proclaim it, as Paul admonished Timothy, “in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2), when people want to hear the message, and when they don’t.

Today’s Gospel gives us our ultimate example of fortitude in Jesus himself, who didn’t shrink from telling God’s truth to his own townspeople in Nazareth, even though he knew he would alienate many old friends, who were now “filled with fury” (Lk 4:28), attempting to destroy him.

May we, too, never be ashamed of the words of the Son of Man.

Total Christianity

Corner of Truth & Love Ave

“Faith is not only knowledge committed to memory, but truth lived in love” – Pope Francis

The saints are all total Christians. That is, they practice both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. This is what all Christians are called to do, as we strive to live up to our baptismal call to be saints. And this is a theme that Pope Francis has been hammering away at during this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

It was no different today, as he spoke to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (or CDF). This is, of course, the office in the Vatican that’s responsible for maintaining doctrinal integrity within the Church. The great Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was for many years the head of the CDF before his election as Pope Benedict XVI.

Many Christians tend to emphasize either the corporal (looking after people’s bodily needs, such as feeding the hungry, etc.) or spiritual (instructing the ignorant about the Faith, etc.) works of mercy, while often utterly neglecting the other group of works. But the truth is, we can’t neglect either set. Just as the human person was created as a body-soul unity, we must look after people’s bodies and souls. We must be willing to feed people physical and spiritual food (in the Eucharist, we have both). We must have, as Peter Kreeft says, “liberal hearts and conservative heads”. We must hurt for the physically suffering, and also for those who are thirsty for the Truth.

The Pope knows this – hence, his speech today. Here are some of the most relevant snippets below (I’ve highlighted some of what I feel are the most important aspects in bold):

Vatican City, 29 January 2016 (VIS) – “Mercy is the foundation of the life of the Church: the first truth of the Church, indeed, is Christ’s love”, were the opening words of the Holy Father’s discourse to the participants in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whom he received in audience this morning in the Clementine Hall. The Pope went on to urge all the Christian people, both pastors and the faithful, to rediscover during this Jubilee the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as when, in the twilight of life, we are asked if we have given food to the hungry and given the thirsty water to drink, we will also be asked “if we have helped people to set their doubts aside, if we have committed ourselves to welcoming sinners, admonishing them and correcting them, if we have been able to combat ignorance, especially in relation to the Christian faith and the righteous life”.

“In faith and in charity a cognitive and unifying relationship is established with the mystery of Love, which is God Himself. The effective mercy of God became, in Jesus, affective mercy, as He made Himself man for the salvation of mankind. The task entrusted to your Dicastery here finds its ultimate foundation and and adequate justification. Christian faith, indeed, is not only knowledge to be committed to memory, but also truth to live in love. Therefore, along with the doctrine of the faith, it is also necessary to safeguard the integrity of customs, particularly in the most delicate areas of life. Adhering to faith in the person of Christ implies both an act of reason and a moral response to His gift.”

Do you agree with Pope Francis’ statements here? Share this post and your answers on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!

Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2016

Pope-Francis-Motion

Q. Today, Pope Francis released his message for Lent for 2016. It seems hard to believe, but Lent is just around the corner! Ash Wednesday is February 10, and Easter Sunday is on March 27.

A. Yes, this year, Lent is relatively early. It feels as if we’ve just caught our breath after celebrating Christmas, but here we go again! It’s important for us to start thinking about how we can get the most out of Lent, making it a spiritually fruitful time. And Pope Francis is eager to help us do that – hence, his letter.

Q. What are some of the highlights? Is there anything in particular that jumped out at you?

A. As with all of Pope Francis’ writing, there is a lot of spiritual food for thought, served up with many arresting images and scriptural references. I really encourage everyone to read it for themselves. What really grabbed me upon first reading it was the quote from the Gospel of Matthew that prefaces the letter: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13). In Lent, we traditionally think of making sacrifices – for example, fasting and abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We also think of good things that we “give up” for Lent for a greater, spiritual purpose, like chocolate or dessert.

But Pope Francis, in this jubilee Year of Mercy, wants us to focus not simply on what we give up, but what we can do this Lent – we can practice the works of mercy, helping others experience the love and forgiveness of God.

Q. How does Pope Francis suggest we go about this?

A. The Holy Father calls us to rediscover what the Church has traditionally called “the corporal and spiritual works of mercy”. Here’s how he puts it in the letter: “These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged.”

Pope Francis also reminds us that these “corporal and spiritual works of mercy can never be separated”, and we must practice both if we are to avoid Hell and attain Heaven, which is God’s desire for us:

“In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy – counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer – we touch more directly our own sinfulness. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated. By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need. By taking this path, the “proud”, the “powerful” and the “wealthy” spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord who died and rose for them. This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power and riches. Yet the danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell. The pointed words of Abraham apply to them and to all of us: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Lk 16:29). Such attentive listening will best prepare us to celebrate the final victory over sin and death of the Bridegroom, now risen, who desires to purify his Betrothed in expectation of his coming.

Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion!”

What do you think? Share your answer in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

The official English translation of the entire letter is below:

MESSAGE OF POPE FRANCIS
LENT 2016
“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13).
The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee

1. Mary, the image of a Church which evangelizes because she is evangelized

In the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I asked that “the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 17). By calling for an attentive listening to the word of God and encouraging the initiative “24 Hours for the Lord”, I sought to stress the primacy of prayerful listening to God’s word, especially his prophetic word. The mercy of God is a proclamation made to the world, a proclamation which each Christian is called to experience at first hand. For this reason, during the season of Lent I will send out Missionaries of Mercy as a concrete sign to everyone of God’s closeness and forgiveness.

After receiving the Good News told to her by the Archangel Gabriel, Mary, in her Magnificat, prophetically sings of the mercy whereby God chose her. The Virgin of Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph, thus becomes the perfect icon of the Church which evangelizes, for she was, and continues to be, evangelized by the Holy Spirit, who made her virginal womb fruitful. In the prophetic tradition, mercy is strictly related – even on the etymological level – to the maternal womb (rahamim) and to a generous, faithful and compassionate goodness (hesed) shown within marriage and family relationships.

2. God’s covenant with humanity: a history of mercy

The mystery of divine mercy is revealed in the history of the covenant between God and his people Israel. God shows himself ever rich in mercy, ever ready to treat his people with deep tenderness and compassion, especially at those tragic moments when infidelity ruptures the bond of the covenant, which then needs to be ratified more firmly in justice and truth. Here is a true love story, in which God plays the role of the betrayed father and husband, while Israel plays the unfaithful child and bride. These domestic images – as in the case of Hosea (cf. Hos 1-2) – show to what extent God wishes to bind himself to his people.

This love story culminates in the incarnation of God’s Son. In Christ, the Father pours forth his boundless mercy even to making him “mercy incarnate” (Misericordiae Vultus, 8). As a man, Jesus of Nazareth is a true son of Israel; he embodies that perfect hearing required of every Jew by the Shema, which today too is the heart of God’s covenant with Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Dt 6:4-5). As the Son of God, he is the Bridegroom who does everything to win over the love of his bride, to whom he is bound by an unconditional love which becomes visible in the eternal wedding feast.

This is the very heart of the apostolic kerygma, in which divine mercy holds a central and fundamental place. It is “the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead” (Evangelii Gaudium, 36), that first proclamation which “we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment” (ibid., 164). Mercy “expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe” (Misericordiae Vultus, 21), thus restoring his relationship with him. In Jesus crucified, God shows his desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from him. In this way he hopes to soften the hardened heart of his Bride.

3. The works of mercy

God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” (ibid., 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us” (ibid.). It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals (cf. Ex 3:5), especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.

In the light of this love, which is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6), the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep (cf. Lk 16:20-21). Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical “you will be like God” (Gen 3:5) which is the root of all sin. This illusion can likewise take social and political forms, as shown by the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, and, in our own day, by the ideologies of monopolizing thought and technoscience, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited. This illusion can also be seen in the sinful structures linked to a model of false development based on the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.

For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy. In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy – counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer – we touch more directly our own sinfulness. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated. By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need. By taking this path, the “proud”, the “powerful” and the “wealthy” spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord who died and rose for them. This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power and riches. Yet the danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell. The pointed words of Abraham apply to them and to all of us: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Lk 16:29). Such attentive listening will best prepare us to celebrate the final victory over sin and death of the Bridegroom, now risen, who desires to purify his Betrothed in expectation of his coming.

Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion! We ask this through the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who, encountering the greatness of God’s mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness (cf. Lk 1:48) and to call herself the Lord’s humble servant (cf. Lk 1:38).

From the Vatican, 4 October 2015
Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi
FRANCISCUS

Your (Spiritual) New Year’s Resolutions Checkup

Q. At this time of year, people are trying to fulfill all of their New Year’s resolutions. Should Catholics make any special resolutions of their own?

A. Yes, we as Catholics should indeed make some specific resolutions. But, before we talk about that, we need to look at a much bigger problem. According to the latest research, only 8% of New Year’s resolutions are kept. That’s a staggering 92% failure rate! Many people make resolutions to do with bettering their health, their financial lives (say, getting out of debt), or improving a relationship in their lives.

The problem lies with the fact that these “resolutions” are usually far too vague – and that is one reason they fail. For example, “I resolve to lose weight this year”. You can almost guarantee that won’t happen.

Q. So, what do you propose, then?

A. It’s better to speak not of resolutions, but goals. And they need to be specific. For example, “I will lose 10 pounds by March 31”. That is specific goal, with a deadline attached to it. Now, you simply need to figure out the action steps needed to get there.

Q. I see. Obviously, we need to apply the same mind-set to our spiritual lives, right?

A. Exactly. People make goals for all kinds of relationships in their lives – with others, and with themselves. But the most important relationship we have in our lives is with God. And we can’t simply “drift” and leave this relationship to chance. What is our game plan? How are we going to take the next step in our relationship with Christ? How are we going to become saints, as he has called us to do?

Q. What are some specific goals Catholics can aim for?

A. Well, it’s tough to make general comments on this, because each person is at a different stage in their relationship with Christ. But there are some specific goals that would benefit everyone. Here are “seven habits” (to borrow a phrase from Stephen Covey) which we can all, with a little effort, inculcate into our lives:

  1. Making a morning offering, dedicating one’s day to God, and doing a brief (2 minutes) examination of conscience at night (asking, “What have I done well? What didn’t I do well? What can I do better tomorrow, with God’s help?”).
  2. Daily prayer. Beginners should start with 5 minutes in the AM, and 5 minutes in the PM, eventually working towards 15 minutes for each session (with the ultimate goal of 30 minutes for each).
  3. Attending at least one daily Mass outside of our Sunday obligation. It is amazing what a difference this makes in one’s spiritual life.
  4. Reading the New Testament for 5 minutes a day.
  5. Reading another spiritual book for 10 minutes a day (this can be done on the train, or whenever one can fit it into one’s schedule). Many saints have been made through reading!
  6. Praying the rosary and the Angelus daily.
  7. Going to confession at least once/month (with the ultimate goal of going weekly).

As with any relationship, it takes some time and effort. We won’t always execute the plan perfectly, but, if we truly want to improve our relationship with Jesus Christ, we will.

How are your own spiritual goals coming along so far this year? Share this post and your experiences on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn!

Pope Francis’ New Book, “The Name of God is Mercy” Drops Tomorrow

A new book by Pope Frances that focusses on the theme of mercy will hit store shelves this week. Cale Clark, the…

Posted by CTV News Channel on Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday Scriptures: The Baptism of the Lord

Q. This Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, which inaugurated Jesus’ public ministry. Can you speak about the connection between Jesus and “John the Baptizer”?

A. Indeed, many scholars call him exactly that – “John the Baptizer” instead of “John the Baptist”, so as not to confuse him with members of the Baptist denomination! At any rate, it is interesting to note the connection between Jesus and John. They are relatives, of course, and in the Gospel of John, the Baptizer is referred to as the “friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29), or “best man”, if you will. Jesus, of course, is the Divine Bridegroom.

John, speaking about Jesus in John 3:30, is quoted as saying, “He must increase, I must decrease” (“He must become greater, I must become less”). This, by the way, is a great spiritual “passphrase” of sorts to use when you are walking up and down a staircase – it’s a supernatural reminder we can use throughout the day. Certainly it speaks to the great humility of John. It’s interesting to note how this factors into the Church’s choice of the respective Nativity feasts for both Jesus and John. Michelle Arnold of Catholic Answers explains:

“One reason December 25 may have been deemed suitable (to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ) is its proximity to the winter solstice. After that date the days start to become longer, and thus it is at the beginning of a season of light entering the world (cf. John 1:5). The summer solstice – after which the days start to get shorter – falls near June 24, on which the Church celebrates the birth of John the Baptist, who declared of Christ, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30).”

Q. The Baptism of the Lord reminds me, of course, of my own baptism, and that of my children. I know that the Church teaches that baptism calls us to two things: holiness and apostolate (sharing our faith). Can you speak to these realities, especially concerning my responsibility as a Catholic parent?

A. Let’s speak briefly about Catholic parenting. What God is looking for from you as a parent is much different than what the rest of the world seeks. Other parents may care most about the letters at the end of their children’s names – M.D., M.B.A., or PhD, for example. But Catholic parents care most of all about the letters they hope come before their children’s’ names: ST. Saint. For the goal of Catholic parenting is that your child become a saint.

Who are the saints? The word saint is from the Greek word “hagios”, which means “the holy ones.” And what does it mean to become holy? Does it mean being “weird” or “strange”, like Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons”? No. Being a holy person just means being the best version of yourself. The person you were created to be. The Bible says, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). This is why we need to share our faith! If we want our kids (and everyone we know and love) to get to heaven, if we want them to see Jesus, they must become saints. And so must we.

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What does your own baptism mean to you? Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn and let the discussion begin! 

Sunday Scriptures: The Epiphany of the Lord

Epiphany

Q. This Sunday, January 3, we celebrate the Epiphany of our Lord (although in many regions it is still celebrated on its traditional date of January 6). What does the Feast of the Epiphany really about?

A. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in paragraph 528:

“The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations. Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning toward the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs,” and acquires Israelitica dignitas (are made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”).

Q. Why is Psalm 72 used as the Responsorial Psalm today?

A. Consider these passages from Psalm 72, which were really written about the “Son of David”, King Solomon, but can certainly be applied to King Jesus, the Son of David:

8 May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
9 May his foes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles
render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts!
11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!

12 For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their souls;
and precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live,
may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all the day!
16 May there be abundance of grain in the land;
on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may men blossom forth from the cities
like the grass of the field!
17 May his name endure for ever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May men bless themselves by him,
all nations call him blessed!

The similarities are obvious: just as “kings” render Solomon precious gifts, including “gold”, the magi bring Jesus gifts. Just as these Kings discovered Solomon enthroned along with the Queen Mother (the Gebirah), Bathsheba, the Magi discover Jesus enthroned with the Queen Mother of his Kingdom, Mary.

Note: Incidentally, the reason Canada is called “The Dominion of Canada” is because of verse 8: “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!” May that be the case indeed!

Mother Teresa to be Canonized on September 4, 2016

The Vatican has announced the late Mother Teresa will be made a saint next year. Pope Francis has recognized a second miracle attributed to the beloved nun, clearing the way for sainthood. Cale Clarke is the director of “The Faith Explained” Seminar Series and he joined CTV to discuss this story.

Posted by CTV News Channel on Friday, December 18, 2015

Advent and the Miraculous

Advent

We are now in Advent, preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Many modern secularists find it very difficult to believe in the possibility of miracles, such as the virginal conception of Jesus. They say that the ancients were quite gullible to believe this, and that modern humanity is far too “educated and enlightened” to fall for such “nonsense”. How can we respond to this?

At one level, this is nothing more than chronological snobbery. In a recent article, RZIM apologist Jill Carattini responds to this fallacious line of reasoning:

In his 1945 essay “Religion and Science,” C.S. Lewis exposed one of the most common false assumptions at the heart of the science/faith divide, particularly as it pertains to the nativity of Jesus. The assumption is that this “primitive” nativity was likewise filled with primitive thinkers devoid of any sort of knowledge of biology or natural reasoning. Here and elsewhere, Lewis saw that we hold our scientific advancements as something like demerits for prior generations, perpetuating the mentality that the only accurate thought is current thought, the only mind worth trusting is an enlightened one—of which I am conveniently a member.

The disciples…knew enough about the laws of physics to be completely terrified by the man walking on the water toward their boat. The crowd of mourners knew enough about death to laugh at Jesus when he insisted that the dead girl was only sleeping, and to walk away astonished when she came back to life. There were also the magi, astrologers who followed their scientific calculations to the child, Philip and Andrew who knew that the mathematics of two fish and a starving crowd were not going to divide well, Mary and Martha who knew that their brother’s death was the last word, and Thomas who knew the same after he watched Jesus crucified.

In each of these objections, I thankfully hear my own. So much so, that it would appear faith is not a turning of one’s back on the fixed laws of nature or physics or mathematics, but rather, a recognition in the very face of these laws we know and trust that something from outside the law must have reached into the picture. I find each of these scenes both remarkable and reasonable precisely because of the reactions of men and women with a grasp of natural law and the same objections that any of us would have offered had we been present. It would be blind faith indeed if we were receiving a story that wanted us at the onset to fully reject the laws of natural reasoning in replacement of something else. What we receive instead is a story filled with undeniable indications which suggest that something—or Someone—has startlingly stepped into the picture.

Sunday Scriptures: Christ the King

 

Q. This Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King. Can you explain how this relates to the second reading, which is taken from the Book of Revelation?

A. In the Old Testament, the Kings of Israel (think of David and Solomon) and the priests of Israel (think of someone like Caiaphas, the High Priest who condemned Jesus to death, along with Pilate), were different individuals with different roles. In fact, the Essenes (the Jewish sect that lived, among other places, at Qumran and wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls) expected two different Messiahs to come: a Priestly Messiah, and a Kingly Messiah. They actually expected the Kingly Messiah to wage war against Rome, and that he would personally slay “The King of the Kittim” (the Roman Emperor himself) in the final battle.

Jesus radically combines (and redefines) the roles of King and Priest in his own person. In fact, Jesus is both Priest and Victim, the sacrifice and the one who offers it: “Jesus Christ is the faithful witness” (Revelation 1:5). The word “witness” in the original Greek text means “martyr” – one who offers one’s life for God. Unlike the Kingly Messiah envisioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jesus does not attempt to kill the Roman official, Pilate, but instead allows himself to be killed as a sacrifice for sin. This is why Jesus says to Pilate (as we read in today’s Gospel): “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews” (John 18:36).

Jesus is indeed King – not just over Israel, but over all nations: “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5). Jesus received this kingship from God the Father, which is why Revelation says that “he is coming amid the clouds” (Revelation 1:7). This is actually a reference to today’s first reading from the Old Testament Book of Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14), which speaks of “one like a son of man” (remember, “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favourite self-designation on the Gospels), “coming with the clouds of heaven” to receive “dominion, glory, and kingship” from “the Ancient of Days” (God the Father). The Daniel text says that “all peoples, nations, and languages serve him”. This will indeed be fulfilled at Jesus’ Second Advent.

Q. How can we apply these truths to our lives today?

A. Today’s second reading reminds us that Jesus “has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father” (Revelation 1:6). By virtue of our baptism, we all share in Christ’s “offices” of King and Priest. And we must exercise these offices the way Jesus did: we don’t “Lord it over people”, but rather lay down our lives for others by serving them as Jesus did. Everything we do – in our spiritual life, our work, our relationships, and in sharing our faith – must be united by this concept of serving God and others. This is our priestly sacrifice for God. And in Jesus’ Kingdom, “to serve is to reign.”